Interview With Santa Claus About His History
Interview with Santa Claus
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the store, last minute shoppers were hurrying to buy more. Before you get the wrong idea, I am NOT a last-minute shopper. My Christmas gifts are all wrapped and hidden at home. My biggest task will be to remember where I hid them.
But I needed to find one more. My little two-year old great grandbaby adores Elmo – she probably owns every Elmo ever made. Except one – the version I was looking for – that walks and talks and coughs and cooks breakfast. I may be exaggerating about the cooking breakfast, but for the price, this Elmo should!
‘Pssst! Pssstt!’ It sounded like someone was trying to get my attention. I looked at all the other shoppers nearby but no one seemed to be ‘psssting’ at me. Wait a moment! One person was. It was the fake Santa Claus stationed on his fake snow-covered-throne in Santa’s Workshop in the Toy Department.
It was almost six p.m. – time for the store to close, and Santa looked exhausted after a very hard day. I pushed my way through the shopping throng and he beckoned me to his side.
me – Hello, Mr. Santa Claus, what can I do for you?
Santa Claus – Nice to meet you. I recognized you from your Facebook photo. My buddy, Zeus, has informed me of your supernatural interviewing skills. Could you meet me for a chat after the store closes at the restaurant next door? Dinner is on me.
I’ve never been one to turn down a dinner date, and this imitation Santa who pretends to be a friend of Zeus seemed perfectly harmless so I accepted his invitation.
We would not be alone in a public place. Besides, he looked as if he were on the far side of ninety. Way far!
Interview with Santa Claus
me – Thank you for the pleasant dinner, Mr. Claus. I’m curious – why did you want this interview?
Santa Claus – Please call me Santa . . . or Kris . . . or St. Nicholas . . . or even Belsnickel, if you wish.
me – (laughing) Belsnickel?
Santa – Yes, Belsnickel is a very old German folklore name associated with me. I wanted to share with you my true story. And explain why I am known by so many names.
me – (trying to be serious and not laugh) Whatever you would like to share, Santa. Why don’t you start at the beginning? I’m all ears.
Santa – Nonsense! Your ears are not disproportionate. In the beginning, I was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop known as Saint Nicholas of Myra in Anatolia (now Turkey). I became famous for my generous gifts to the poor and helping those who were less fortunate. Anonymously, of course.
me – Of course! (holding in my disbelief and trying to be encouraging) I remember a story about St. Nicholas providing a pious father with dowries so his three daughters would not have to become prostitutes.
Santa – That is partly true. That father could not afford the dowries necessary for his three daughters to marry, so he was considering selling one of them into slavery to get money for the other two. When I learned that devastating news, I went to their home late one night and tossed three bags of gold down their chimney.
By a strange coincidence, the gold coins fell into each of the daughter’s stockings which were hanging by the fire to dry.
me – Aha! (this fellow IS clever) So that’s how the chimney story started? And the tradition of stockings hung by the mantel?
Santa – Correct. I have also heard a variation of that incident indicating that I tossed a bag of gold through an open window which would explain how I enter homes that have no chimney.
me – Makes sense to me.
Santa – I haven’t always looked like the jolly, rotund pot-belly figure most people know as Santa Claus today. My earliest ancestors may date back to pre-Christian days when mythological gods like Zeus and Odin lived in the sky and ruled the earth.
me – (thinking that’s where the Zeus name-dropping came from) I have read that many parallels have been drawn between you and Odin before Christianity took root.
Santa – That‘s true. Odin was often recorded during the native Germanic holiday of Yule – celebrated at the same time as Christmas – as leading a great hunting party through the sky.
He rode an eight-legged gray horse named Sleipnir that could leap tremendous distances. Do you see the comparison to Santa’s eight reindeer?
Children would place their boots filled with sugar, carrots or straw near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward them by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy. This practice still survives in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and parts of France, and has become associated with Saint Nicholas.
Footnote: The name, Sleipnir, means smooth or gliding, hence the English word, ‘slippery.’ The horse was said to be the swiftest on earth, and could bear Odin over the sea and through the air.
me – How did you become the Santa Claus so familiar to us now?
Santa – After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the veneration of Catholic saints was banned. But people enjoyed the annual visit from their jolly gift-giving saint, so in some countries the festivities of St. Nicholas' Day were merged with Christmas celebrations.
In Germany, I was known as Weihnachtsmann, in England as Father Christmas, and in France, as Pere Noel who left small gifts in the children's shoes. I was still St. Nicholas, the gift-bearer.
Santa Coming to America
Santa - Immigrants to America brought along their various beliefs. The Scandinavians introduced gift-giving elves, the Germans brought Belsnickel and also their decorated trees, and the Irish contributed the ancient Gaelic custom of placing a lighted candle in the window.
me – And the name, Santa Claus?
Santa – In the 1600s, the Dutch introduced Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) to the colonies. In their excitement, many English-speaking children uttered the name so quickly that Sinterklaas sounded like Santy Claus. After years of mispronunciation, the name became Santa Claus.
me – I know that the famous American author, Washington Irving, created a new version of St. Nick in 1808 and described you as “a jolly Dutchman . . .
Santa – . . . who dropped gifts down the chimneys of his favorites.” I received even more publicity in 1822 when Dr. Clement Clarke Moore wrote “The Night before Christmas.” He was the first to give me an Arctic flavor with eight tiny reindeer and a sleigh.
me – I can remember the names of six of your reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, and Cupid. But what were the names of the other two? (Santa didn’t know it but this was a test.)
Santa – You forgot Dunder and Blixem. Their names came from the old Dutch words for thunder and lightning, which were later changed to the more German-sounding Donner and Blitzen.
me – (Santa passed that test with an A+) Dr. Moore also described you as having … “a broad face and a little round belly that shook when (you) laughed like a bowl full of jelly.” Unforgettable simile!
Santa – But it wasn’t until many years later that Thomas Nast who illustrated Moore’s verse provided a softer, kinder visual image of me.
me – Isn’t he the caricaturist and political cartoonist who gave you the bright red suit with the white accents?
Santa – And a home at the North Pole. Surrounded by hundreds of toy-making elves.
me – Was it Coca Cola that gave you your modern image?
Santa – In a way. It was Haddon Sundblom, a commercial artist, who first drew me in 1931 as a benevolent, portly, grandfatherly Santa with a ruddy complexion, a twinkle in my eye, and human proportions. His artwork appeared in Coke’s advertisements and on their billboards.
Did you know that many groups have claimed me as their patron saint? True! Children, orphans, sailors, thieves, and even pawnbrokers have prayed to me for guidance and protection. Entire countries, including Russia and Greece, adopted me as their patron saint.
me – That’s fascinating. Why do you suppose that has happened?
Santa – Perhaps because of the legends of my unselfish giving. My image as a benevolent saint has been transformed into an almost mystical being known for rewarding the good and punishing the bad.
me – (Another test for Santa) Do you recall the song that was written about you way back in 1934 that we still sing today?
Santa – Are you referring to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”? It’s always been one of my favorites because it describes how I make a list of children worldwide and deliver presents according to whether they have been ‘naughty’ or ‘nice.’
me – That’s right. And another popular song was sung by the cowboy star, Gene Autry.
Santa – I believe you mean “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It was written by a Montgomery Ward department store copywriter, Robert L. May. He gave the copyright to his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, who wrote the song in 1949.
me – (With new respect) I didn’t know that. I always thought Autry wrote it.
Santa – I appreciate your patience listening to me ramble. Do hope I have explained my plethora of names and origins.
But now I must run. You know what a busy night this is for me.
me – Absolutely! And just for the record, I apologize for not being more ‘nice’ when we met.
Santa – No apology needed. I understand. After all, I AM Santa Claus!
me – (Laughing) Was there ever any doubt?
Names for Santa Claus throughout the World
Name - Country
Name - Country
Name - Country
Babbo Natale - Italy
Viejo Pascuero - Chile
Hoteisho - Japan
Rauklas - Germany
Father Christmas - England/New Zealand
Gaghant Baba -Armenia
Joulupukki - Finland
Kris Kringle - Australia/Canada/U.S.
Mikulas - Hungary
St. Nick - Australia/Canada
Befana - Italy
Diado Colega - Bulgaria
Ganesha - India
Jultomten - Sweden
Papa Noel - Spain
Dun Che Lao Ren - China
Gwiazdor - Poland
Kerstman - Belgium
Sinterklas - Indonesia
Bozicek - Slovenia
Ded Moroz - Russia
Julenissen - Norway
Jezisek - Czech Republic
Kanakalok - Hawaii
Significant Santa Statistics
• Each Scandinavian country claims Santa's residence to be within their territory. Norway claims he lives in Drobak. In Denmark, he is said to live in Greenland near Uummannaq. In Sweden, the town of Mora has a theme park named Tomteland. In Finland, Korvatunturi has long been known as Santa's home.
• A tourist attraction known as the Santa Claus House has been established in North Pole, Alaska, and a Wendy’s there claims to have a ‘sleigh fly through.’
• "Is There a Santa Claus?" was the title of an editorial that appeared in the September 21, 1897 edition of the New York Sun. The editorial, which included the famous reply: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” has become an indelible part of Christmas lore in the U.S. and Canada.
• Historically, Coca-Cola was not the first soft drink company to utilize the modern image of Santa Claus in its ads. White Rock Beverages used a red and white Santa to sell mineral water in 1915 and then in ads for its ginger ale in 1923.
• Did you know there are Santa Claus schools that offer instruction on how to act as Santa Claus? In 1937, Charles W. Howard, who played Santa Claus in department stores and parades, established the Charles W. Howard Santa School, the oldest continuously-run such school in the world.
• On December 23, 2008, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism formally awarded Canadian citizenship status to Santa Claus. "(We) want to let him know that, as a Canadian citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete."
• The image of Santa Claus as a benevolent character became reinforced with its association with the Salvation Army. Volunteers often dress as Santa Claus as part of fundraising drives to aid needy families at Christmas time.
• In the United States and Canada, children traditionally leave Santa a glass of milk and a plate of cookies as a reward. In Great Britain and Australia, he sometimes receives sherry and mince pies instead. In Sweden and Norway, children leave him rice porridge. In Ireland it is popular to give him Guinness or milk together with Christmas pudding or mince pies.
Source: Seal, Jeremy. Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus. Bloomsbury, USA, 2005
I did finally find Elmo!
Here is Madison,
my great grandbaby,
with her new gigantic BBF -
Big Best Friend!
Questions & Answers
© 2012 drbj and sherry