Welcome to Awakenings

Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Santa's First Climb


Along with Christmas time comes the anticipation of Santa Claus whose story stretches all the way back to the third century. The legend of Santa Claus has roots connected to a monk named St. Nicolas. It has been said he gave away his wealth traveling the countryside helping the poor and sick. Thus, the introduction to St. Nick about whom there are actually many legends! One in particular is celebration of his feast day, which occurs on the anniversary of his death, December 6.

This feast day, of course, did not occur on the shores of America. So, the question becomes, "When did he appear on American soil?" St. Nickolas made his first appearance in American pop culture near the end of the eighteenth century in December, 1773 and again in 1774. Groups of Dutch families actually gathered in celebration of the anniversary of Sinter Klaas, aka Sinterklaas, Nick's Dutch nickname.
In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society's annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a "rascal" with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a "huge pair of Flemish trunk hose."
There is a lot of tradition behind Sinter Klaas, aka Sinterklaas. Just click the picture below and visit Mia's Musing for a Dutch girl's eye view.

Is this the same Santa seen in the shopping malls? Same origin, but with a slightly different look. When stores begin advertising Christmas shopping in the 1820s, gift-giving centered around children. By the 1840s, newspapers specialized in creating special holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. Today, you can find Santa busily entertaining children as they sit on his lap burning his ears with Christmas wishes.

One last question probably comes to mind, "Where does the chimney enter the picture?" There are various stories why Santa comes down the chimney. The one most commonly known appears in the famous Christmas poem "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" even though Santa's connection with chimneys dates back several centuries before the poem.

 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;...

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof--
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound...

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose...
Embrace the Past...

Significant influences of Santa Claus in America include:

1659 - Puritanical theocrats brought the hammer down on Christmas traditions. From 1659-1681, a fine of five shillings was imposed for feasting and celebrating Christmas in Boston. Wishing a fellow colonist a mere "Merry Christmas" brought on the hefty fine. Perhaps this is where Ebenezer Scrooge got his beginnings!

In contrast, the settlement of Jamestown actually openly celebrated the season. 

1820 - Advertising for Christmas shopping began in stores in America.

1822 - Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters titled "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," which begins with the famous line 'Twas the night before Christmas'. His imagery in the poem beget the jolly Santa Claus.

1840 - American newspapers began to creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus.

1841 - A life-size Santa Claus model lured thousands of children into a Philadelphia shop. This was only the beginning for the 'store Santas'.

Early 1890s - Salvation Army provided free Christmas meals to needy families. As the tradition grew, money was needed to fund the project. Unemployed men were dressed up in Santa suits who, in turn, hit the streets of New York ringing bells for donations, a tradition that is still live and well today. Also, in the 1890s, Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S.

1914 - On and around Christmas Day 1914, roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in unofficial ceasefires on the battlefields of WWI. The artillery in the region fell silent being replaced by the sounds of Christmas carols in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

1931 - On Christmas Eve 1931, while the nation was mired in the Great Depression, a 20ft Christmas tree was erected by construction workers on a muddy site of what would become the Rockefeller Center in New York. Two years later, a Rockefeller Center Publicist organized the first official tree-lighting ceremony. Today, it is a multimillion-dollar extravaganza that attracts thousands of tourists each year.

1939 - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the most famous reindeer of them all, yet he was 'born' over a hundred years AFTER his eight counterparts.  Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store, is accredited with his creation.  He wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store using a similar rhyme pattern to Clement Clark Moore's Christmas poem.
1949 - One of Robert May's friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph's story. It was recorded by Gene Autry selling over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences every year since 1964.

Do you believe in Santa?