Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or Santa, is a legendary character originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring children gifts during the late evening and overnight hours on Christmas Eve of toys and candy or coal or nothing, depending on whether they are “naughty or nice”. With the aid of Christmas elves, he makes toys in his workshop at the North Pole. On Christmas Eve, flying reindeer pull his sleigh through the sky.
This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.
Caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast, German-American cartoonist, (1840-1902), began drawing an image of Santa each year, beginning in 1863, that was based on 1823 poem. By the 1880s, Nast’s Santa was the most popular and by the 1920s, was the most used in advertising.
In 1931, Coca Cola employed illustrator, Haddon Sundblom, to create a happier image of Santa. He created a new advertisement each year and from then on, Santa was depicted as a portly, jolly, white-bearded man, often with spectacles, wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers, red hat with white fur, black leather belt and boots, and carrying a bag full of gifts for children and with a laugh that sounds like “ho ho ho”.
Santa Claus The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. In the Western world, where Christmas is characterized by the exchange of gifts among friends and family members, some of the gifts are attributed to a character called Santa Claus. He is also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, St. Nikolaus, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann, Saint Basil and Father Frost.
In the 4th century, Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, Turkey, was a kind and generous man who was particularly devoted to children. His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and some time around the 12th century an official church holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.
Father Christmas, who predates Santa Claus, was first recorded in the 15th century and then associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness. In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa and France’s Père Noël (Papa Noël) evolved the same way and eventually began using the same Santa image.
Today’s version of Santa Claus was created by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902), who drew a new image of the character annually, beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Nast’s Santa had become the one now know and in the 1920s, this image was used in most advertising. But it was the early to mid Coca Cola advertising that cemented the idea of Santa Claus as a jolly man with a white beard and wearing a red suit. He was portrayed as drinking a coke and smiling happily. Many famous artists started doing yearly illustrations of Santa Claus that were used for magazine covers and Christmas postcards.
The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star appears in nativity story of Gospel of Matthew where wise men from the East, or Magi, follow the star and travel to Jerusalem. The Three Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn king. Myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume, and gold as a valuable.
Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.
The Three Kings by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were the three presents brought by the Wise Men to the Infant Christ, lying in the manger stall, at Bethlehem. Gold to Christ means that all the affluence of the world surrendered to Him and Gold paid the way for Joseph and Mary and the divine fugitive into Egypt. The gold for Christ, the silver for Christ, the jewels for Christ. The bright, round, beautiful jewel of a world set like a solitaire on the bosom of Christ. The wise men shook myrrh out of their sacks and the cattle snuffed at it but didn’t eat it because it was bitter. This pungent gum resin of Abyssinia was brought to the feet of Christ to show bitter betrayal, persecution, days of suffering and bitter nights. Myrrh was put into His cup when He was dying and put under His head in the wilderness and Myrrh was used on His from the cattle-pen in Bethlehem to the mausoleum. Frankincense means worship and was brought to temples, sprinkled over the living coals, and when they were ready to worship, the cover was lifted and perfumed smoke arose and filled the places of worship and altars.
In modern times, gifts are given on December 25th, or Christmas Day, in most countries but in others it is December 6th, or Saint Nicholas Day, and January 6th, or Epiphany. European countries generally follow the custom of giving each other presents on Christmas Eve.
At the end of the winter term, schoolmasters would set their pupils to work on Christmas Pieces, samplers of writing on superior paper with engraved borders, to show parents how they had progressed during the year. By about 1820, the engraved borders were enhanced with color and the children’s pieces became more decorative.
However, the custom of sending cards at Christmas was started in the United Kingdom in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. Postage had been standardized three years earlier and Cole was a civil servant who had played a key role in initiating Uniform Penny Post. He wanted ordinary people to become more interested in the new ‘Public Post Office’. With his artist friend John Horsley, they designed the first card which was issued from a periodical, Felix Summerley’s Home Treasury, and were sold for 1 shilling each.
The card was lithographed, hand-colored, had three panels and was in a rustic frame of carved wood and ivy. The outer two panels showed people caring for the hungry and the naked. The centre panel showed a family of three generations having Christmas dinner, although the temperate classes strongly objected to the idea of a child being given a glass of wine with dinner.
1843 First Christmas Card ever Printed. Vintage Christmas Card.
New railways carried more post, and a lot faster, than a horse and carriage so the Post Office offered a Penny stamp. Cards became even more popular when they could be posted in an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny. Christmas cards became truly popular when printing improved and cards could be produced in large numbers, around 1860. By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe and especially in Germany.
Early cards usually pictured Nativity scenes, but in the late Victorian times, robins and snow-scenes became popular because the postmen wore red uniforms and were nicknamed ‘Robin Postmen’. Snow-scenes were also popular because they were a reminder of the very bad winter of 1836.
Snow scenes reflected the snowy and often harsh northern hemisphere winters when opening and reading Christmas cards was an enjoyable family experience. In 1860, Charles Goodall & Son, a British publisher of visiting cards, began mass producing cards to be used for visits during the Christmas period. These Christmas and New Year’s visiting cards were decorated with simple designs such as a twig of holly or flowers.
Sales of cards grew and designs and sizes changed. The first cards were meant to appeal to the masses and encourage them to send large numbers by post, so rather than focus on religious images, they showed sentimental or humorous images of family and children, fanciful designs of flowers, fairies, or reminders of the approach of spring. Religious themes of nativity scenes, children looking at the manger, or angels and candles remain popular to the modern day.
Cards could be shaped like bells, a fan, a crescent, a circle, or a diamond and were folding, decorated with jewels, iridescent, embossed, and carried either simple Christmas and New Year greetings or had verses and carols written in them. The next year, Mr W.C.T. Dobson produced a sketch symbolizing the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ which sold many more than the previous thousand and the novelty caught on.
Many artists became famous for their annual illustrations that became postcards and cards. Printing technology became more advanced in the age of industrialisation and the price of card production dropped. With the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry industry increased until in 1880 11.5 million cards were produced.
Another Christmas Tradition is kisisng under the Mistletoe. So have fun this Christmas and find someone to kiss. The problem in hotter climates is to find the Mistletoe, of course. Darn!
Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.
Scandanavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year. Mistletoe was associated with Christmas as both a decoration under which lovers kiss, as well as a protection from witches and demons. Sounds romantic, although mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant that grows on other trees or plants and comes in many varieties.
In Britain, mistletoe was mainly found in the western and southwestern parts, so the custom wasn’t even followed in all parts of England. But where the mistletoe custom was followed, it was hung in doorways and the greenery was watched by young gentlemen in hopes of catching a pretty girl to kiss, usually on the cheek.
Traditionally, a man was allowed to kiss a woman who was standing underneath mistletoe and bad luck would befall any woman who refused. In some places, it was the custom to pick a berry for each kiss and when all the berries were gone, no more kisses could be taken.
The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant, or sub-deacon, and the revelries followed the Pagan tradition of Saturnalia and was a time of drunkenness and wild partying. The Church’s festival with a Boy Bishop, the leader of children’s festivities in choir schools, was similar, but was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by the Catholic Queen Mary, but again abolished by Protestant Elizabeth I. On the Continent, the Council of Basle suppressed it in 1431 but the custom was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century. After the death of Edward VI in 1553, the English court stopped appointing a Lord of Misrule.
From A Survey of London by John Stow: Reprinted from the text of 1603.
‘…in the feaste of Christmas, there was in the kings house, wheresoeuer he was lodged, a Lord of Misrule, or Maister of merry disports, and the like had yee in the house of euery noble man, of honor, or good worshippe, were he spirituall or temporall.’
During the late medieval and early Tudor periods in England, Lord of Misrule, also called Abbot Of Misrule, or King Of Misrule, was appointed to manage the Christmas festivities held at court, in the houses of great noblemen, in the law schools of the Inns of Court, and in many of the colleges at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.
His reign lasted anywhere from 12 days to 3 months and his role was to direct the masques, processions, plays, and feasts. Although this was mostly a British custom, in ancient Rome from the 17th to 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule took on the guise of Saturn for the feast of Saturnalia and the ordinary rules were changed so that masters became slaves and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided and could command anyone to do anything. Our contemporary Christmas holidays seem to have originated from this idea of festive holidays.
The custom began in December 1551 when the Duke of Somerset, Edward VI’s uncle Edward Seymour, was in the Tower of London awaiting execution. He sent a note to the Master of Revels to appoint George Ferrers as Lord of Misrule. Ferrers was a courtier and poet who later contributed to A Mirror for Magistrates, described by Scott Lucas as a “compendium of tragic monologues” by a series of historical personages.
Scotland had the Abbot of Unreason (suppressed in 1555) as their equivalent to the Lord of Misrule and scholars believe both ideas came from the “king” or “bishop” who presided over the earlier Feast of Fools.
Christmas: Typical Christmas Food Eaten By the Bridgerton and Jane Austen Families. #Christmas #Food #JaneAusten #Bridgerton
On the Christmas menu was generally mince pies and perhaps a goose or a piece of beef, depending on the family’s wealth and status. Mince pies were not made of fruit mince as we do now, but of offal or meat such as bullock’s tongue cooked with spices, orange peel, and wine and then used to fill pastry cases.
Another Christmas specialty was a Yorkshire Christmas pie which would be filled with turkey, goose, a hen, or perhaps woodcocks, partridge, or pigeons. And after the main courses, came the Plum Pudding, mixed on Stir-Up Sunday according to each family’s recipe and then boiled in a cloth.
Our modern Christmas tree tradition probably began in Germany in the 18th century, though some argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. An evergreen fir tree was used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees but it probably began 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains.
The English phrase “Christmas tree”, first recorded in 1835, came from the German words Tannenbaum (fir tree) or Weinachtenbaum (Christmas tree). The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship. At first, a figure of the Baby Jesus was put on the top of the tree. Over time it changed to an angel or fairy that told the shepherds about Jesus, or a star like the Wisemen saw.
Christian tradition associates the holly tree with the crown of thorns, and says that its leaves were white until stained red by the blood of Christ. Along with a Christmas tree, the interior of homes were decorated with plants, garlands, and evergreen foliage and in Victorian times, Christmas trees were decorated with candles to represent stars.
The early Germans conceived of the world as a great tree whose roots were hidden deep under the earth, but whose top, flourishing in the midst of Walhalla, the old German paradise, nourished the she-goat upon whose milk fallen heroes restored themselves. Yggdnafil was the name of this tree, and its memory was still green long after Christianity had been introduced into Germany, when much of its symbolic character was transferred to the Christmas-tree. At first fitted up during the Twelve Nights in honor of Berchta, the goddess of spring, it was subsequently transferred to the birthday of Christ, who, as the God-man, is become the “resurrection and the life.”
Queen Victoria saw a Christmas tree as a girl in 1832. The little princess wrote excitedly in her diary that her Aunt Sophia had set up two “trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed around the tree.” In 1841, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband, arranged for a fir tree to be brought from Germany and decorated. By 1850, Victoria and Albert had Christmas trees erected in the British Royal Palaces and their children started the tradition of gathering around the tree.
‘The Christmas-tree is doubtless of German origin. Though in its present form it is comparatively of recent date, yet its pagan prototype enjoyed a very high antiquity.’ From 1873 Harper’s Bazaar, America.
A print of the royal family gathered about the Christmas tree at Windsor Castle appeared in the Illustrated London News in 1848, then in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1850, and was reprinted again ten years later. The six-foot fir sits on a table, each tier laden with a dozen or more lighted wax tapers. An angel with outstretched arms poses at the top. Gilt gingerbread ornaments and tiny baskets filled with sweets hang by ribbons from the branches. Clustered around the base of the tree are dolls and soldiers and toys.
Christmas trees did exist in America before Queen Victoria made them famous, but mainly only amongst migrant groups from Europe. The writer of an 1825 article in The Saturday Evening Post mentions seeing trees in the windows of many houses in Philadelphia, a city with a large German population. He wrote, Their “green boughs laden with fruit, richer than the golden apples of the Hesperides, or the sparkling diamonds that clustered on the branches in the wonderful cave of Aladdin.” Gilded apples and nuts hung from the branches as did marzipan ornaments, sugar cakes, miniature mince pies, spicy cookies cut from molds in the shape of stars, birds, fish, butterflies, and flowers. A woman visiting German friends in Boston in 1832 wrote about their unusual tree hung with gilded eggshell cups filled with candies.
Not until the mid-nineteenth century did Christmas trees start spreading to homes with no known German connection. But once Queen Victoria approved of the custom of a Christmas tree, the practice spread throughout England and America and, to a lesser extent, to other parts of the world, through magazine pictures and articles. Upper-class Victorian Englishmen loved to imitate the royal family, and other nations copied the custom. Late in the century, larger floor-to-ceiling trees replaced the tabletop size.
At Christmas time, households had guests to stay and games were played to either fill in the time inside when the weather was too bad to venture out with sleds or skates, or to keep tradition. Blind man’s bluff, forfeits, and snap dragon were all played.
A list of some entertainments for Christmas…From The book Of Christmas by Thomas kibble Hervey. “jugglers, and jack-puddings, scrambling for nuts and apples, dancing the hobby-horse, hunting owls and squirrels, the fool-plough, hot-cockles, a stick moving on a pivot, with an apple at one end and a candle at the other, so that he who missed his bite burned his nose, blindman’s buffs, forfeits, interludes and mock plays :” — also of ” thread my needle, Nan,” ” he can do little that can’t do this,” feed the dove, hunt the slipper, shoeing the wild mare, post and pair, snap dragon, the gathering of omens….
Snap Dragon A favorite game was Snap Dragon, often played on Christmas Eve. Raisins were put into a large, shallow bowl and brandy was poured over them and then ignited. Lights were extinguished to increase the eerie effect of the blue flames playing across the liquor. The object of the game was to reach through the blue flames and grab as many raisins as possible from the flaming brandy and pop them into your mouth. The risk of burning yourself increased the excitement.
Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 describes the. game as “a play in which they catch raisins out of burning brandy and, extinguishing them by closing the mouth, eat them”. According to an eighteenth-century article in Richard Steele’s Tatler magazine, “the wantonness of the thing was to see each other look like a demon, as we burnt ourselves, and snatched out the fruit.”
Snap-dragon was played in England, Canada, U/S.A, and probably other countries with British backgrounds. The words snap-dragon and flap-dragon can refer to the game, the raisins used in the game, or the bowl with brandy and raisins.
The first reference to Snap-dragon as a game is in Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1811. “Christmas gambol: raisins and almonds being put into a bowl of brandy, and the candles extinguished, the spirit is set on fire, and the company scramble for the raisins.” Snap-dragon as a Christmas parlour game was mentioned in 1836 in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and in 1861, in Anthony Trollope’s novel Orley Farm. Lewis Carroll, in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There in 1871 describes “A snap-dragon-fly. Its body is made of plum pudding, its wings of holly-leaves, and its head is a raisin burning in brandy.”
Agatha Christie’s book Hallowe’en Party describes a children’s party during which a child’s murder causes Hercule Poirot to be brought in to solve the case and at which Snap-dragon is played at the end of the evening.