Nicholas or Santa Claus , the problem is how to explain to kids how all those presents really get under the tree. Nicholas, and how did he become associated with Christmas?
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The Christmas concept of the gift-giving saint is thought to start with a riff on Saint Nicholas, who is said to have been the 4th century bishop of the Lycian Greek town of Myra now the Turkish town of Demre. Nicholas Day is marked annually by many Christians on Dec. Historians do know that St. Nicholas has had a reputation for generosity, deserved or not, that dates back centuries. For example, the book The Golden Legend, which a Genoese churchman published around , claimed that St. As the legend of St. Nicholas developed, that reputation stuck around.
In some parts of 16th and 17th century Europe, St. Nicholas was depicted as someone who handed out apples, nuts and baked goods, symbols of a bountiful harvest.
In the Netherlands, for example, St. Nicholas Day was a time for a person dressed up as the saint to go from house to house with a servant, either rewarding or punishing children depending on the work they had done. The good students got a gift meant to resemble a sack of gold, while the bad ones got lumps of coal. Others believe that boxes full of alms to give to the needy were left in churches over the Christmas period, and on Boxing Day these were collected and distributed.
The Krampus, an anthropomorphic half-goat, half-demon figure who punishes naughty children at Christmas, is the antithesis to Saint Nicholas.
The creature is inspired by folklore said to date back to pre-Christian Alpine traditions and its name taken from the Old High German word for claw, 'Krampen'. With goat horns, a lolling tongue, hairy body and chains, the terrifying Krampus apparently accompanies Saint Nicholas on his travels, doling out punishments and warnings instead of gifts to children. K rampusnacht falls on December 5th and is celebrated in cities across Europe, with revellers donning Krampus-esque costumes and taking to the streets to scare children.
I ts original usage was far from romantic: the parasitic plant was viewed by ancient cultures as a cure for ailments such as menstrual cramps and spleen disorders. Eating the berries actually causes vomiting and stomach pain because they contain toxic substances. Druids viewed it as a symbol of life as it grew even during the winter.
It was consumed to increase fertility and used to decorate houses during summer and winter solstices. In Norse mythology mistletoe has connotations of love and friendship.
This Christmas Tell Your Children the Real Santa Claus Story
I t is unclear exactly where the link between Christmas and mistletoe arose, however. By the 18th century the practice of hanging mistletoe at Christmas began in Britain. It was bad luck if you refused to kiss someone under the mistletoe. Charles Dickens described in the Pickwick Papers how young women "screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and did everything but leave the room, until … they all at once found it useless to resist any longer and submitted to be kissed with a good grace.
The pies were initially made of meat, usually mutton, and influenced by crusaders who came back from the Middle East with spices. S amuel Pepys wrote about them, but in his time they were much more savoury than we are used to now. In the 18th century the pies became sweeter, with the import of sugar from slave plantations in the West Indies. C rackers are a Victorian invention, created by a sweet maker who wanted a novel way of selling his wares after sales slumped. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future.
Visit our adblocking instructions page. According to these early medieval texts, Nicholas was born around AD into a Christian family. His birthplace was near the town of Myra, now called Demre, on the southwest coast of modern Turkey. At the time, Christianity was illegal under the Roman empire. He studied to be a priest and spent time in prison for his beliefs.
During his lifetime, he became famous for defending his people against imperial taxes and other forms of oppression.
According to the earliest document about Nicholas, from the fifth century, he prevented three loyal generals from unjust execution for treason. A ninth-century Greek legend claims he revived three scholars who had been murdered and stashed in a pickling tub. He also saved three girls whose poverty-stricken father wanted to sell them into prostitution. After his death, people believed that Nicholas continued to work miracles.
The History of How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus
His burial place, below the floor of his church , became a popular destination for pilgrims who begged Nicholas to relay their petitions to God. Tomb in Saint Nicholas Church, Demre. This was a common pilgrimage practice at Christian shrines. From there, word passed to the Latin West, and upriver to Russia. Soon, pilgrims from all over Christendom were journeying to Myra to seek the gifts of protection and healing from the saint, who was said to be especially attentive to children.
This pilgrimage was disrupted in the 11th century when Seljuk Turks invaded Anatolia. So, one crew of pious Italian Christians decided to take action. However, according to a monk named Nicephorus who wrote immediately after the event, their real mission was to steal St. In Antioch they heard a rumor that the Venetians too were planning a similar heist.
The Barian sailors hastily sold off their grain and headed for Myra in search of St. The Barians claimed that the pope had a vision directing him to fetch Nicholas to Italy.
Suddenly, a phial of manna fell to the pavement and broke. It seemed that St. So, the Barians broke through marble floor with picks and hammers. A delicious aroma filled the church as they opened the tomb. They found the bones swimming in a small sea of manna. They carefully wrapped the relics in a silk case brought for the purpose. Yet the crew made it back to the harbor at Bari, where the townsfolk and clergy processed, singing joyous hymns, to greet the saint.
A new church was built for Nicholas in the court of the governor of Bari. A few years later, Pope Urban II — the one who would preach the First Crusade — formally enshrined the relics of the saint. For at least five centuries, the region, which includes Bari and its saint, was caught in constant wars for possession of southern Italy. Because Nicholas was a patron saint of sailors, Spanish sailors and explorers carried stories of the saint wherever they went: Mexico, the Caribbean, Florida and other ports around the world.
Even the Dutch, who rebelled against Catholic Spain and formed a Calvinist republic in , somehow maintained their devotion to Sinterklass. In other parts of Europe, St. Nicholas lost his feast day but his concern for children helped link him to the gift-giving tradition of another December feast day: Christmas. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. In the s, Italian scientists examined the bones enshrined in the Basilica di San Nicola, seeking evidence of authenticity. They found the skull and incomplete skeleton of a man , dating to around the fourth century.