Today we are tackling the big issue of the moment – Who is Santa Claus and does he exist?Let’s start with the easy question – Where did he come from?
Found in the Alpine regions of Europe the Krampus is a demon like figure who travels about the day before St Nicolas and punishes bad children or in extreme cases takes them away altogether. He is usually shown with horns, long tongue and cloven feet. Normally he carries bells, chains and a sack in which to carry away to very naughty children. In the modern festival in Austria on the 5th of December men dress as the Krampus in ornate wood masks and sheep skins and run around chastising the naughty children and adults.
In Holland St Nicolas is known as Sinterklass and when the Dutch went out to settle in America they took their Sinterklass traditions with them to the new land. Settling on the East Coast they founded the port of New Amsterdam, when the British took control of the port of in 1664 and renamed it New York Sinterklass remained but this was corrupted by the English speaking Brits to Santa Claus. At this point it was only in these Dutch settled areas that Sinterklass existed. The popular author Washington Irving gave Americans their first detailed information about this tradition in his ‘History of New York’, published in 1809. In it Irving described the arrival of the saint on horseback (unaccompanied by ‘Dark Helper’) each Eve of Saint Nicholas. It only became a truly a national idea with the publication in 1823 of the poem ‘A Visit From St Nicolas’ (sometimes incorrectly called ‘The Night Before Christmas’) by Clement Clarke Moore. Not only is the poem clearly set on the 24th of December but it did many things to help establish our modern Santa Claus.
Like the St Nicolas of the old stories, Moore’s St Nick delivers presents in secret and down chimneys. The move from horse to a Reindeer team to pull his sleigh can also be attributed to Moore’s poem. There are earlier references to a reindeer pulling St Nicolas’s sleigh such as a 1821 issue of ‘The Children’s Friend’ but Moore’s poem not only had mass appeal it has had named reindeer. Perhaps the more significant change was that of the appearance of St. Nicolas. St Nicolas was, as I described before, a bearded, tall, thin, sober man in ecclesiastical garb but Moore has him as; “all in fur, from his head to his foot,And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.…His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.He had a broad face and a little round belly,That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf”
This fur wearing, pipe smoking elf is much closer in description to the Pelznickel (Fur Nicolas). Found in some areas of Germany he’s fur-clad in a long coat, boots, and a big floppy hat. He carries a sack full of apples and nuts that he gives to the good children or a beating to the bad. Indeed the original illustrations that accompanied Moore’s poem has St Nicolas complete with stick to beat the naughty children with. This is probably because Moore’s family were of German extraction and until Moore’s poem St Nicolas or Father Christmas had many variations and adaptations. It is likely that Moore was simply describing the gift-giving Christmas character he was familiar with.
This universal American image of Santa Claus was further developed by illustrator Thomas Nast, who depicted a rotund Santa for Christmas issues of Harper's magazine from the 1860s to the 1880s. Nast added such details as Santa's workshop at the North Pole and Santa's list of the good and bad children of the world. It was the Nast illustrations of Santa Claus appearance in Victorian Britain that changed the British Father Christmas forever.
Father Christmas before then was traditionally seen in a green or fur cloak and hood rather than suit and cap as the American Santa Claus usually appeared. While Nast explains the move to a suit and cap, the change to a red suit is a highly debated subject. There is plenty of evidence that red and white was another one of the options for Father Christmas to wear (as well as the traditional fur or green and rarer options such as blue or purple). However, by the middle of the 20th century red and white was the only choice.
In the 1920s the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ a widely read bi-monthly American magazine featured cover illustrations by Norman Rockwell and J. C. Leyendecker of Santa Claus which saw him in the familiar red and white.
Certainly at the same time in the UK, author and folklorist J.R.R.Tolkien was writing and illustrating a series of letters from Father Christmas that had him dressed in red. However, as these were written for his children they were not published until much later. Instead Haddon Sundblom, a Swedish illustrator, was responsible for the cementing of Red and White as the colour. He was commissioned to do the now famous Coca-Cola images of Santa Claus.
First appearing in 1931 as a jolly man with a red tunic and white cuffs his traditional pipe is replaced by a coke. Santa was hatless in this image but this is explained by the marketing slogan “My hat’s off to the pause that refreshes.” Sundblom’s Santa Claus was dressed in the traditional American style with jacket and trousers, broad belt and red pointed cap. Sundblom my not have been the first to use red and white but the international marketing campaign run by Coca-Cola left the world with the image of an American Santa Claus clad in red and white. Over the centuries, customs from different parts of the Northern Hemisphere have come together and created the whole world's Santa Claus - the ageless, timeless, deathless white-bearded man who gives out gifts on Christmas. Now we need to tackle is biggest question of all – Does Santa Exist?
In 1990 an article by Richard Waller was published by ‘Spy Magazine’ claiming that Santa was dead. His reasoning? The forces affecting the reindeer and sleigh during take-off and landing would be such that; “The front reindeer will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second.” According to Waller the fatally doomed Santa would be exposed to such extreme G-Forces that;“If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.”
If you are unwilling to accept magic as an explanation then clearly Santa is just much more technologically advanced and has cracked these problem already. Perhaps instead of being unbelievers scientists should try being good and wish for some of that advanced technology for Christmas instead of the socks they currently get.
Now over the years there have been many adults and older children who denounce his very existence despite the appearance of presents from him on the morning of December 25th. To them we say baa humbug! Of course he exists. There is a famous letter from 1897 written to an American newspaper –The Sun by a little girl Virginia O’Hanlon.“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” The newspapers now famous reply was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897 but was in fact the work of veteran newsman Francis Church. In reply he wrote;“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.”
As all scientists know the absence of something is not proof that it doesn’t exist.“The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”Like all the best things Santa Claus is an mix of all of us and represents the best of the festive season.Ladies and Gentlemen if you take only one thing away with you from today make it this – Christmas is as magical as you make it so have some faith and believe in Santa Claus!
Lecture Note Taking Mrs Wilson
Lecture Note Taking• Material written on the blackboard.• Repetition• Emphasis• Word signals (e.g. "There are two points of view on . . . " "The third reason is . . . " " In conclusion . . . ")• Reviews given at the beginning of class.• Summaries given at the end of class.
Santa – The Truth!The JYHS Library Christmas Lecture
Santa – The Truth!•aka Father Christmas dates back at least 6000 years•Known as the „Allfather‟ • St. Nicolas is the Christian version • Appeared c. 4th Century. • Gift giving tradition • Mysterious „Dark Helper‟
Santa – The Truth! •Spy Magazine – ”Is there a Santa Claus? - a physicist view” “If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he‟d dead now.”
Santa – The Truth! The science bit - 2,106 million Children 2.5 per household = 842 million houses to visit 221 million miles to cover = moving at 1279 miles per second The forces would vaporise him and his reindeer team.
Santa – The Truth! •many adults and older children who denounce his very existence despite the presents •letter from 1897 written to an American newspaper –The Sun by a little girl Virginia O‟Hanlon.
Santa – The Truth!Absence of proof does notmean he doesn‟t exist.“The most real things in theworld are those that neitherchildren nor men can see.”Santa represents all that isgood and bright about theseason and about us.
Bibliography• Christmas Unwrapped: Facts behind the myth and magic of Christmas by Patrick Harding.• Can Reindeer Fly?: The Science of Christmas by Roger Highfield• Is There A Santa Claus? by Richard Waller, Spy magazine, January 1990.• "In Search of Schrödingers Reindeer," by Matthew Davies and Martin Slaughter. New Scientist, December 1999.• St Nicolas Centre www.stnicholascenter.org• Visions of Christmas http://www.americanantiquarian.org/Exhibiti ons/Christmas/
Key Points• Origins of Myth – – 1920s red more common – ‘Allfather’ – 1931 Coca-cola adverts by – St Nicolas Sundblom – Dutch to USA take • Laws of Physics Sinterklass - Extreme forces but – Add Brits = Santa Claus in Santa technologically New York 1809 advanced or uses magic.• Santa Claus Look - ‘absence of proof does not equal proof’. – 1823 – Clement Clark Moore ‘A visit from St - 1897 letter to ‘The Sun’ Nicolas’ newpaper – Nast Illustrations