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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Who's Santa

The end of Halloween anticipates Christmas. The beginning of another holyday season, originally pagan but now well integrated among most of the families: The Christmas. This is the children favourite season, a lot of presents, a lot of colour, huge chocolates figures, a green and most of the times huge tree… and a fat, handsome man, dressed in red suit with a big big big bag of gifts, on a sled being pulled by reindeer. 

On the Internet we can find lots of information about this nice and kind old man. Most of it trying to explain who is he and what he has done. 

Of course everyone knows he is a fat, nice and kind man who lives in North Pole, he controls the time, and he has magical powers that allow him to move around with a bag of presents.
But who was he? In fact Santa really exists, around the year 300. We have look around a lot of sources and the next paragraphs show what we did found. Most of the information we got is in fact more legend then history, but it give us a good inside view.

Who is Santa?

Saint Nicholas was born in Patara, on IV century, on the North of Turkey, he was born in a Christian wealthy family. As adult he was named Myra Bishop, we estimated he was dead around December 6 on a unknown year, we estimated this because that was the day medieval church dedicated to him. His remains were buried in a church outside the city wall and taken to Italy on the year of 1087, everything else is not certain and the legend becomes “alive”.

The first reference to this man was made by Proclus de Constantinople in the year of 440., and clearly points that this subject belongs to legend domain, we also notice that the first written reference to Myra Bishop was made 300 years after he died by an unknown biographer called Michael. This fact is not a problem by itself; the problem is that no one seems to know who informed Michael about those facts.

With this biographer we learn several things:

The history of the poor man and their three daughters:

Nicholas heard that this poor man is unable to offer a dowry for their three daughters. "They were so poor," Michael writes, "that no man of their order wanted them as his wife. Not even men of lower rank thought about marrying them. Therefore, their father thought about ordering them to work in a brothel, so that he and the family would have some income."

Fortunately, Nicholas acts. During the night, he throws a pouch with money through the poor man window. Now the oldest daughter can married. This gesture is repeated three times and soon the poor man has all three daughter well married.

The story tells us, Nicholas was caught by the poor man throwing the pouches. The man expressed his gratitude and Nicholas promise that he won’t tell a word about the subject. That live us with a question, if no one spoke, how we know this story?

There are several other identical stories about Nicholas, he was well known for his generosity with the less fortunate and his love for children. He uses to give presents anonymously to children throwing them thru the windows. It’s said the he made several miracles, another story tell us he helped some sailors saving them from drowning.
After he “was free” from the fortune he had inherited from the father Nicholas is made Bishop of Myra. It’s said that the Bishop appeared to the officials that were keeping 3 innocent generals in Constantinople prison, and because of that they were sent free, the story also tell that Nicholas was seen at the same time in Myra, at his office.
The credibility of these stories isn’t supported by the fact that too many parallels exists between Saint Nicholas and other older stories.

Let’s take Pythagoras Apollonius example. He was born in Tiana, not far from Myra. This wise man also remains chaste and gives all his property to allow a poor man to give their daughters a dowry, he involves himself in a trial to save someone who is sentenced to death, he also has the power of bilocation.

Santa Claus and his pagans origins

Its not unusual a Christian Saint be adorned with pagan stories..

Mythologist Helene Adeline Guerber outlined the as similarities between our Santa and Nordic God Thor.
In Sweden Thor represents Santa Claus. Santa Claus researchers think that this Nordic God was used as a mold to Santa Claus of our days. Thor was the god of the peasants and common people. He was very friendly, young, heavy and presented a long beard. His element was the fire and his colour red. He drove a chariot pulled by two white goats. He fought against giants of ice and snow. He lived in North Pole, where he had his palace among the icebergs! The fireplace in every home was sacred and it is known that he came down the chimney to its element, the fire!

In the mid-5th century AD, was habit in the winter an old man of the community dress in furs and visit people in their homes. This man was designated as the "Old Man Winter" or "King Frost", and took food and drink. Tradition says that this old would take the cold and the bad winter with him and therefore population did not suffer much with the cold.
This tradition became stronger during the invasion of Scandinavia by the Vikings between the sec sec VIII and XI. They took many of their traditions as the God Odin, who is traditionally represented by a portly elderly man with white beard.

Before 1880 images of Santa Claus show him as a well feeded man with a long white beard and dressed in green.

  • When dutch went to America they took with them St. Nicholas lengend, they called him Klaas Sinter. When this one was americanized as Santa Claus lost his bishop suit..
  • Since then Santa Claus dressed several colours, that’s because he was transformed into an miix with the god Thor.
  • In the XIX century Thomas Nast, a famouse cartoonist added the red tunic, the white beard, and the tos bag to a cartoon.
  •  In 1822 Clemente Clark Moore wrote a Cristmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas",
  • Some Christmas Cards published in 1885 shown a Santa Clause in a red coat instead of the green one.
  • Thor car pushed by goats was replaced by reindeer and a sleigh.

Et voilá!
Saint Nicholas, Mytra Bishop, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Thor, Odin, Whatever you call it he is coming to town


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