Before and after St. Nicholas
Santa's ancestors are found in the "PRIMITIVE MYTHOLOGY" through the benefactor God Herne (or Pan), which is a spirit of nature embodied on earth by the head of a clan called the Shaman. His disguise represents an animal. His clothing represents an animal. He wears a mask with horns during the ceremonies consecrated to nature, life and fertility. (The words "Shaman" or "Sorcerer" have been given a diabolical connotation today, at that time it wasn't the case).
In the West, about 3,000 years ago, he infiltrated the "WESTERN MYTHOLOGY" in conjunction with the giver-gods worshipped in Scandinavia:
- Odin (also called Wuotan): Odin, lives in the kingdom of Asgard. He has an 8-legged horse named Sleipnir and is accompanied by 2 wolves named Heïki and Freïki. The main celebration of Odin is around the 21st of December and the people make many offerings to him and to his horse, who is offered bales of hay. Odin regularly sends crows to earth to monitor the behavior of his people. According to the information he receives, he gives gifts to well behaved children on the occasion of the winter solstice.
Thor (Odin’s son): is the god of thunder. He is a jolly old man with a white beard who visits people’s houses through the chimneys.
Several other gods are worshipped during the winter solstice in celebration of the rebirth of the day. (The solstice is an astronomical event that occurs when the apparent position of the Sun, seen from the Earth, reaches its southern or northern extreme depending on the plane of the celestial or terrestrial equator.)
Other countries express it in other forms, such as:
- La Befana in Italy: An old witch who shows generosity on the 6th of January to celebrate the epiphany (hence her name).
- The Snowman (Bonhomme Hiver) or Father January in France (called Jack Frost in the USA): In France, he is represented as an old man who personifies the winter season.Aunt Arie in France: A witch with bird's feet and iron teeth who gave gifts to good children in some regions of France.
- Jultomten in Sweden: He is an elf who takes care of children and the houses of the farmers. He protects them from bad luck, especially at night, while they sleep.
- Frau Holle (or Mother Holle) in Germany: is a character (an old lady) from the Grimm brothers' fairy tales and she is the one who makes the snow fall on earth by shaking the quilts of the many beds in her house.
- Babushka in Russia: An old lady who collected wood in the forest. She met the wise men who suggested that she should come with them to worship the baby Jesus. The old lady refused because she had work to do but soon regretted her decision and set out to find them. And it was this character, who embodied the wandering, that brought gifts to Russian children.
- The Yule goat (Julbock) in the Scandinavian countries.
He is also represented by:
- The Angels: They lend a hand to the baby Jesus and distribute gifts through the chimneys
- Saint Lucy: Widely celebrated in Sweden, she symbolizes the light (the rebirth of the day). She is the patron saint of the children and brings them gifts.
- Bishop Saint-Nicolas (or Sinterklass in Dutch): St. Nicholas is depicted with a white beard, a miter, a crosier and a long red coat, often riding on a donkey's back.
The feast of Saint Nicholas takes place on the night of December 5-6: He visits people's homes to bring the good children a variety of treats (dried fruit, apples, cakes, candies, chocolates and especially gingerbread, which represents the Holy Bishop). St Nicolas is often accompanied by Father Fouettard (French for Father Whipper) who, dressed in a large black coat with a large hood and big boots, doesn't have the nicest role since he delivers beatings to the ill-behaved children. The Father Whipper often has horns and a tail. Sometimes he also gives charcoal, potatoes and onions instead of sweets.
Around 1520: The baby Jesus became a gift giver following the Protestant reform, for saints such as St. Nicholas were not considered acceptable.
The Magi: Eastern kings came to worship Jesus on January 6 (a few days after his birth). They were guided by a star that announced the birth of a messiah. They carry gifts: myrrh, gold and incense whilst the Christmas celebration takes place on the night of 24/25 December.
Up to the 3rd century: the birth of Christ was celebrated on January 6 on the occasion of the Epiphany (Feast of Kings). However, the gospels have never mentioned a specific date of birth for Jesus. It is Pope Liberius and the Christian Emperor Constantine who set the birth of Christ on December 25 in order to suppress the so-called pagan feasts that were held at that time of the year. The oldest document that mentions this date of December 25 is the Chronograph of 354 (which mentions events dating back at least to 336). Not a single Christian text specifies the day of the year on which Jesus Christ was born. Santa Claus is not part of the celebrations held by the first Christians and does not appear in the lists published by Irenaeus of Lyon and Tertullian.
At the beginning of the 6th century, monk Denys the Humble placed the Annunciation on March 25 and the birth of Jesus nine months later, on December 25 of the year 753 of Rome (i.e. year -1 of the current calendar), mainly to coincide with the beginning of a paschal season. It is on this calculation that the calendars of the Christian era, which has become a common era, are based today. According to the biblical Christmas narratives, the flocks were outside with their shepherds, so it can be deduced that Jesus' birth did not take place during winter.
Around 1520: The German Protestant reformer Martin Luther wanted to eradicate the Saints (rooted in European culture) in order to concentrate the worshipping on the baby Jesus. Martin Luther had St. Nicholas replaced by Christkindel, who was the baby Jesus when he brought gifts. In Alsace and German-speaking Moselle, the baby Jesus is personified by a young girl entirely dressed in white and covered with a veil that can be seen on Christmas Eve.
The Lutheran Church sets up the Christkindel to replace St. Nicholas, who was celebrated by Catholics on December 6.
He becomes the Christkind in Germanic countries (or Christkindl in Austria). It is represented by a small wax figure of the Baby Jesus, popular among children, to which one prays between Advent and Epiphany. The cult of St Nicholas began to decline but remained alive in Holland.
In 1809: The American writer Washington Irving, in his satirical book "Knickerbocker's history of New York", described Saint Nicholas as an old elf who "flies over the trees in a flying chariot, carrying presents for the children. Washington Irving's description is identical to that of the god Thor.
On December 24, 1822: New York pastor Clement CLARKE MOORE wrote a poem for his children entitled "A VISIT FROM ST NICHOLAS" better known as "THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS".
On December 23, 1823: Clément Clarke MOORE's poem "A Visit From St Nicholas" appeared in a New York newspaper called "The Sentinel". St. Nicholas is described as a pot-bellied small old man who has lost his episcopal attributes and wears a fur coat, and who comes down the chimneys to deliver gifts. He travels around using a sled pulled by 8 flying reindeer (known as Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, Prancer and Blixem).
From then on, Clément Clarke MOORE changed the date of St Nicolas' visit from December 6 to the 24, thanks to the great success of this poem.
In 1837: The artist Robert Weir drew him for the first time in a red and white suit. The non-religious population of the time turned him into a secular Christmas character. He was perceived as a small, grumpy elf, whose small size allowed him to come down the chimney. Saint Nicholas was not yet Santa Claus.
In 1839: A ninth reindeer was added, Rudolph, who was in charge of lighting Santa's path with his "bright red nose". The story is translated into several languages and spread all over the world. Inspired by this illustration, Denmark created a new variant of the "Nisse" called "Jultomte" in Sweden and "Julenisse" in Norway, instead of the traditional " Julbock " (Yule goat).
Unlike the North American Santa Claus who has reindeers, the Dutch Sinterklaas has a "Zwarte Piet", which literally means: Black Peter.
In 1845: a Dutch schoolmaster named Jan Schenkman wrote a story in which he introduced the servant of Saint Nicholas who represented the Father Whipper. In the story, Sinterklaas arrived from Spain in a steamboat accompanied by an African black assistant. The book was extremely popular and led to the introduction of the assistant of Saint Nicholas into the Christmas festivities. (It was only later in the century that the name Piet was given to him).
At that time, the "Zwarte Piets" often had a Surinamese accent and played the role of clumsy jesters. During the great televised arrival of Sinterklaas, a Hoofdpiet (Chief of the Father Whppier or Black Peter) takes care of the organization while another is playing the "fool" in the middle of the crowd that gathered in the streets, this while waiting for Sinterklaas, who arrived in his wake, greeting royally from his white horse, dressed in his houppelande and wearing his bishop's miter.
Consequently, the second name of the North American Santa Claus: Kris Kringle has its origin in Christkindel (portrayed by a young woman dressed in white).
In the 21st century, Saint Nicholas is still celebrated in several European countries: France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Russia, Poland, Austria and many others...
In 1848: Printer Louis Prang invented the Christmas card. He was forced to go into exile in Switzerland and then in the United States. He produced greeting cards that quickly met a certain success. These cards featured a Santa Claus dressed in red.
In 1860: American cartoonist Thomas NAST, a Bavarian immigrant and illustrator for the New York newspaper "Harper's Illustrated weekly", made the first modern visual depictions of Santa Claus, based directly on the poem by Clement Clarke Moore. He represents Santa Claus in the shape of a gnome, wearing a red tunic, a wide leather belt, black boots and a bundle. He made it look like the Bavarian grandfather of his childhood and that's how he made it popular. For nearly 30 years, Thomas NAST represented, in this newspaper, a chubby and jovial Santa Claus, with a white beard and accompanied by reindeers.
In 1881: It is a "Tomte" from Sweden that Jenny Nyström transforms into a friendly man with white beard and red clothes, and since then he has been associated with Christmas.
1885: Thomas NAST draws the Santa Claus route that goes from the North Pole to the United States. He invents Santa's house at the North Pole in a picture depicting 2 children spotting the route leading to the pole on a map. This was how Santa Claus' place of residence was officially established.
In 1886: A year later, the writer Georges P. WEBSTER pointed out that the toy factory and Santa's house were hidden in the ice and snow of the North Pole, thus validating Thomas NAST's drawings.
In 1890: Santa Claus is used for an advertisement to promote the brand Star soap. He is again wearing red, still has the pipe that Washington Irving gave him, but has not yet acquired his big belt or his big belly.
Around 1897: The North American Santa Claus made his first appearances in France.
Towards the 19th century: The character of Saint Nicholas was exported to the United States by Dutch settlers. The English distorted the Dutch name "Sinterklaas" and transformed it into "Santa Claus".
Saint Nicholas used to take with him the naughty children in his sack.
Early 20th century: St. Nicolas' miter becomes a cap, the stick becomes a giant candy cane and a traditional French sack is added. This sack was used by the "Father Whipper" to take ill-behaved children with him to punish them.
En 1923 : Il apparait dans la première publicité en couleur pour le soda White Rock, dans le magazine Life.
In 1929: Seven years after White Rock, the Coca Cola firm recaptures the jovial Santa Claus, whose red color corresponds to its brand. Coca Cola tries to persuade its customers that there are no seasons when it comes to thirst.
In 1930: A first advertisement drawn by Fred Mizen, the well-known illustrator of the Coca Cola Company, shows a Santa Claus in a department store during his break. The success of this image encourages the company to continue to pursue this path.
In 1931: Archie Lee advises the Coca-Cola company to commission Haddon Sundblom to produce advertising illustrations, based on Fred Mizen's Santa Claus model. They asked him to draw the "real" Santa Claus for them, and no longer use a model. Sundblom's illustrations are so well done that it is later believed that he created this representation of Santa Claus.
In 1939: Robert L. May added, in one of his poems, the ninth reindeer named Rudolph, who had a red nose.
Unlike Thomas Nast, Haddon Sundblom gives Santa Claus a human size. He is no longer represented as an elf or a gnome but as a good old grandfather. Although they were not the creators of Santa Claus or the Santa Claus imagery, the Coca Cola firm has helped to spread its popularity all over the world thanks to the advertising created by the talented designer Haddon SUNDBLOM in his penultimate evolution.
1945 - 1946: Santa Claus (distortion of the Dutch name "Sinterklaas") developed in Europe mainly after the Second World War when the United States became involved in the reconstruction of Europe. He was renamed "PÈRE NÖEL" (French for “father Christmas”) in France.
The United States stripped Saint-Nicolas of his crosier, miter, donkey and bogeymen (Father Whipper); dechristianized him and made him a purely secular character without religious barriers. As a result, he becomes Father Christmas or Santa Claus.
En 1946: Tino Rossi's song "Petit Papa Noël" triggered a craze for the character.
1951: Death of Santa Claus in France: In the city of Dijon, the church, which does not like the recently imported USA Santa Claus, decides to have him executed. The children of the parish are gathered under the porch of a church where a Santa Claus of paper and cloth is set on fire. The purpose of this burning at the stake is to make children understand that Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus and that Santa Claus was a pagan myth that had nothing to do with this holiday.
This execution provoked a scandal and made the headlines in the national newspapers. The next day, the elected officials of Dijon had to apologize to the population by having Santa Claus reappear on the roof of the town hall. From that day on, the secular Santa Claus stands out in front of the church.
In 1999: Author Lyllah ROZ attempts to promote the idea that winter clothing in southern countries is not adapted to the climate. She writes a short story "Daniel and the Santa Claus of the Hot Countries" that will not be published.
In 2005: According to a report that revealed the fear that children feel when it comes to the way Santa Claus looks, and after a survey conducted with children, author Lyllah ROZ wrote the story "Flying Letter to the Santa Claus of the Cold Countries", which tells the story of a little girl who is very afraid of Santa Claus. Her older brother Alain wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking him to make an effort to change his appearance so that his little sister would no longer be afraid of him. Santa Claus decides to get rid of his fake pomp and sends a picture to Alain. The Caribbean painter, Christophe MERT, directed by the author, created the new illustration of "Santa Claus" who became the "Northern Santa Claus" or the "Santa Claus of the Cold Countries".
In 2014: Author Lyllah ROZ writes the tale "Kovani and the 2 Santa Clauses" which will not be distributed. She submits an excerpt from the story to the "La Maîtrise" school. Kovani is played by a student from this primary school, little Mathias LOBAL. Directed by the famous director Euzhan PALCY, the children see for the first time, the Northern and Southern Santa Clauses. Enthusiastic, students and teachers had no objection to this evolution and appreciated these new images.
En 2019: Author Lyllah ROZ, presents a three-volume e-book format entitled: "Kovani and the 2 Santa Clauses"; "Kovani and the spaceship" and "The return of Kovani". Through this multi-character, multi-intersectory tale, she contributes to the rebirth of the Legend by offering children a more credible and plausible story adapted to their era and their future, all while allowing them to enter a world of real and imaginary fantasy, one that includes flying cars, drones and spaceships. A story that reveals a true bond between the two Santa Clauses.
Moreover, this tale gives adults the opportunity to believe again through the image of the "Santa Clauses of the grown-ups" who are involved in social missions when the social organizations cannot intervene or are unable to provide hope to the grown-ups.
Since 1951, Christmas has therefore become a secular holiday that is neither pagan nor religious. The purpose of this celebration is to bring happiness and reconciliation within family units.
Today, Santa Claus is generally recognized and celebrated in most European and American countries. In Latin America, he is usually referred to as "Papá Noel", but this name is subject to some variations in some countries.
In Asia, some countries, especially those that have adopted a Western culture, also celebrate Christmas and its traditional gift giver. Some countries perpetuate Christmas as a tradition (especially during the holidays), such as Hong Kong, the Philippines, East Timor, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and several Christian communities in Central Asia and the Middle East.
Christians in Africa and the Middle East have been perpetuating the Christmas tradition since the 19th and 16th centuries. In some other countries, the person who delivers gifts during the winter holidays varies. (Alternative names, appearance, history, and the day the gifts are given).
It is important to note that, following certain considerations concerning the color of the "Southern Santa Claus", the face of the "Southern Santa Claus" is adapted to the face of the population being addressed. Just as the Northern Santa Claus face is also adapted.
In this unedited photo, Santa Claus is in a southern country, in a supermarket, in an air-conditioned room. Find what's wrong with this picture!