History alert! The following blog post is a bit geeky – but we think very interesting none the less! If you’d rather just jump over to our Christmas Candles and browse away feel free. For those who want a lesson in Santa Claus, let us begin.
Santa’s a bit of a strange personality that – funnily enough – doesn’t appear in the bible at all. He’s a product of the weird mix of pagan and new and old Christian traditions that mix together to make what we all now accept as Christmas. Originating from what was once St. Nicolas, a Byzantine saint known to give out presents on the 9th of December who was alive during the 4th Century, and transformed into Santa Claus over the centuries of Christianisation in Europe and elsewhere in the world. The modern image of Santa Claus is also said to have been contributed to by old Norse legends of Odin, who lead ‘the great hunt’ through the sky during the darkest days of winter. What used to be Odin’s horse, Sleipnir, was traded for a reindeer as Santa Claus made his way over the Atlantic to North America.
Given Santa is such a crazy hotchpotch of different characters and people already, it’s not so surprising that people around the modern world have such wildly different ideas about what he does, who he is, and what he looks like. In Japan, for instance, Santa is still fat but is much less warmly dressed, as he takes the form of a joyous Buddhist monk with eyes in the back of his head. He doesn’t need to visit Japan on Christmas eve, either, and instead makes his way to the islands a little later at the beginning of the New Year, where the locals sleep awaiting their gifts.
The Netherlands have an even stranger version of St. Nick. Sinterklaas, as he’s known there; he lives in Spain for most of the year and makes his way over to the Netherlands in mid-November. Whilst he’s in the Netherlands, he wears stately robes and a big pope-style hat, and runs around town with his friend Black Peter. Together they gather and beat the naughty children, before bringing them back to Spain for (presumably) a good ol’ fashioned hot Christmas holiday.
In Puerto Rico, the people don’t bother with Santa Claus but keep a slightly more conservative Christian tradition by having the three wise men as the traditional gift givers. On Three Kings Day (January 6th), children stock up on grass for the three kings’ camels to munch, and are rewarded with gifts and sweets. We’re particularly fond of that one – it seems nice that the children have to collect something to trade for Christmas, even if it is just grass.
So, there you have it – a load of weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from all over the world. The world’s a big, strange, cultural place, and it makes sense there’s so many different traditions for so many different peoples. It’s nice to know, though, that however we’re all doing it and for whatever reason, that so many people come together at the same time of year to celebrate something. That really warms our cockels. Merry Christmas from us here at Love Aroma!