History Behind Santa:
The story behind the origin of Santa Claus varies from country to country. The word “Santa Claus” comes from Dutch words “Sinter Klass”, which is what they used to call Saint Nicholas. It is said that he dies on December 6, A.D. 342. Thus, this day is celebrated as his feast day, and in many countries, it is believed that he arrives with presents and punishments.
Nicholas lived in a place called Myra in the Asia Minor (now known as Turkey). He was born in A.D 280 in the town of Patras. His parents were wealthy, and he was a well-educated boy. He has a remarkable childhood. He was made the Bishop of Myra when he was still a young boy and was known as Boy Bishop since then. He was known for his extreme kindness and generosity. He used to go out at night, taking presents for the needy. There are two legends which rose the fame of Santa: the three daughters and the children at the Inn.
The Three Daughters:
This legend shows the generosity of St. Nicholas. As per this legend, three unmarried girls were living in Patras who came from a respectable family, but they could not get married as their father lost all his money and had no dowry to give for their marriage. The only thing that the father thought was that he could sell them when they reached the age of getting married. Hearing about their fate, Nicholas secretly delivered a bag full of gold to the eldest daughter who was at the right age for marriage. Her family was thrilled at her good fortune and was happily married. When the next daughter came to the age, Nicholas again delivered gold to her.
According to the story, Nicholas threw the bag through the window, and it landed in the daughter’s stocking which was hung by the fire to dry.
There is another version claiming that Nicholas had dropped the bag of gold through the chimney.
By the time, the youngest daughter was old enough for marriage; the father was determined to discover his daughters’ secret well wisher. Because of the events before, he thought the third one would also get a bag of gold, so he kept watching for the person all the night.
Nicholas again arrived, but this time his identity was revealed to all. As the story of his generosity was known to all, anyone who received an unexpected gift thanked St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas and Children:
Another legend explains why Nicholas was made a patron saint of children. On a journey to Nicaea, he stopped at an inn to spend a night. During night, he had a terrible dream that a crime had been committed in the building. In his dream, three young sons of a wealthy Asian, on their way to study in Athens were murdered and robbed by the innkeeper. The next morning, he confronted the innkeeper and forced to confess. The innkeeper confessed to killing other guests and salting them down for pork. Also, he had dismembered their body and pickled them in casks of brine. The three boys were still in their casks. Nicholas made a sign of a cross over them. They were restored to life.
History of the Religion:
There were legends of the god Wodan in the pagan Celtic and Germanic cults. These legends blended various Christian saints, one of these was Saint Nicholas. There were areas where Saint Nicholas ruled alone while in other locations, he was assisted by the pagan Dark Helper, a slave he had inherited from Germanic god Wodan. In other remote areas where the Church held little power, the Dark Helper ruled alone. The Dark Helper used the cover name of Saint Nicholas or “Klaus” with a fur-clad appearance. This figure was later used by the artist Nast as the early American Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas was also a compilation of two separate saints: one from Myra in Asia Minor and the other from Pinora. The church now admits that both of them were nothing more than Christianized water deities, related to Greco-Roman god Poseidon/Neptune.
Saint Nicholas cult was brought from Italy to Northern Europe after the Vikings raided the Mediterranean. A conqueror named William was hit by a storm during his invasion of England. It is said that he called out for protection to Saint Nicholas. Thus, Saint Nicholas is known as the protector of seafarers.
There were different theories: by the pagan feasts and traditions, Saint Nicholas was the bringer of love and gifts while grudgingly allows the presence of Old religion’s Herne/Pan as a slave to Saint Nicholas. Thus in some parts of Europe, the Church turned Herne into a captive of Saint Nicholas, chained the Dark Helper. The Dark Helper or the Satan’s task were to carry a bag, scare maidens and children, drag sinners and pagans off to hell. Still, masses continued to see this Dark Helper as a reflection of their enslavement.
In Holland and several other European countries, Saint Nicholas is still highly esteemed figure. He appears as a tall white-haired bearded old man dressed as a Catholic bishop with a cloak, mytre and pastoral staff. He has a bizarre habit of riding through the skies on a white horse followed by his Dark Helper.
The Dutch Sinterklass brings gifts to good children while the bad children are harassed by Zwarte Piet, the Dark Helper who threatens to put naughty children in a sack and take them to a terrible place. This is believed never to happen as Sinterklass always intervenes provided the child promises to better his or her ways.
In some areas, a glass of gin is left as an offering for the good saint. By the daybreak, the offerings disappear and get replaced by gifts proving that Sinterklass has paid a visit during the night.
From all these lessons it’s clear that Saint Nicholas, being the good saint gifts those who are being good while Herne/Satan, the dark one drags you to hell in case of being mischievous. This is true in all the areas. So be good, enjoy your Christmas!