Holiday Fun (mostly) Facts with Madge! Santa Claus...who the heck are you?!

I have decided to share some of my old posts from The Impatient Blogger with Holiday Fun (mostly) Facts in them. I love research and I'm fascinated by mythology and story telling. It's so interesting to me to dig deep and discover the underlying stories behind our Christmas traditions. So without further ado, welcome to my first Fun Fact Friday post of the holiday season. If you're a mixed media artist...these little fun facts and the images/motifs they evoke just might give you some fresh ideas for your work...

Holiday Fun (mostly) Fact Friday
Santa Claus...Who the Heck Are You?
Copyright Margot Potter

So, Santa Claus...who the heck are you and why do you give us presents, hmmm?! Not that we mind, oh no, keep 'em coming please! It's just...we wanna know more about you. You're so mysterious.

Santa Claus, jolly old elf that he is, is an amalgam of figures and legends mostly European in origin. They can be traced back to a host of gift bearing Pagan figures such as
la Befana (a friendly witchy female creature who enters houses with gifts through the chimney), the Yule Goat, Berchta, Olentzero and Julemanden among many others. These figures were combined with that of St. Nicolas, whose legends included bringing gifts to children. His holiday was on December 6, with the celebration of the birth of the Christ child being placed on the 25th of December. See how this is all coming together here, the newly Christianized holiday season and the proponderence of similar gift giving myths and stories...hmmm? As the church began to doubt the validity of the stories of St. Nicolas, they began to heavily promote the later holiday, but the traditions surrounding St. Nicolas remained popular and shifted to this new date.

The invisible Christ Child or Christkindlien was the central figure in many of the German Christ’s Mass (Christmas) stories and he was traditionally accompanied by a fur robed helper such as Belznikel or Pere Noel.
Knecht Ruprecht, Belznikel or Pelznikel as the Pennsylvania Dutch referred to him was a rather scary visitor, who arrived on Christmas Eve when the children were still awake to frighten them and punish them for being bad with lumps of coal and switches for their stockings. The gifts arrived the following morning delivered by the invisible Christkindlien. In some European legends Santa had an elf helper named Black Peter (or the even more sinister and scary Krampus) whose job it was to whip the naughty children...egads!

Over time the more visible helpmate figures overshadowed the invisible Baby Jesus with the name
Christkind shifting to the now familiar Kris Kringle or Santa Claus (from Sinterklaas the Dutch name for St. Nicolas.) Many of the legends that surround Santa Claus as we know him can be traced back to the writer Washington Irving, who combined Dutch traditions, rhymes and stories to create the figure of a gift giving, sleigh riding, robe wearing holiday staple. Clement Moore further developed the Santa Claus story borrowing la Befana’s chimney antics and creating the eight tiny reindeer we all know and love. Santa at this point was tiny in size, but he grew in both popularity and stature as illustrators, writers and advertisers fine tuned his appearance until he morphed slowly into the roly poly, jolly figure in red and white by the 1920s, bolstered further and solidified by the advertising images of the Coca Cola Company.

Most of the enduring and endearing legends we associate with Santa are the product of the vivid and glorious imagination of writers and illustrators. He’s a combo platter if you will and like most extraordinary mythological figures he’s far greater than the sum of his parts. I like to think of him as a super hero, one of very few left for kids to look up to, and the spirit of giving, love, laughter and joy that he imparts is the true gift we carry in our hearts for a lifetime. In my mind, nothing quite compares to the look in a child’s eyes as they turn the corner and see the gifts piled under the tree. It’s...well...what Christmas is all about. Whether you celebrate it or not, you can probably appreciate the sentiment attached to it. If you can seek that feeling out in your heart, just once a year, share that with others...give them a taste of that magic...that’s some serious good stuff!

(Sources for this Santa blogtorial include:, Wikidpedia,


1 comment:

TesoriTrovati said...

I love to keep Christmas alive in my heart all year long. I think that my kids are still holding true to the belief at 8 and 11 and I will continue the traditions for as long as I am alive. I love that letter writtent to Virginia...yes, there is a Santa Claus. When you are shown kindnesses and compassion and caring. When you think of others before yourself. I am not interested in the commercialization of Christmas, but more so in the spirit. Thanks for sharing, Madge. Enjoy the day! Erin