Santa Claus is a Christian

Christmas customs

Christkind fans have a much harder time than Santa Claus fans. How are they supposed to explain to their children or grandchildren the omnipresence of countless Santa Clauses climbing the facade and nice grandpas in red coats with sticky beards and jute sacks on their backs who populate all the Christmas markets in the republic? At least after December 6th, this can hardly be Santa Claus. A dilemma that Santa Claus fans do not face.

In any case, Santa Claus seems to be at the top of the popularity scale today - but the Christ Child also has many supporters on his side. They fear that Santa Claus as an advertising figure will encourage unlimited consumption and that the true content and customs of the Christian Christmas festival will take a back seat.

The Christ Child - an "invention" of Luther

But where does the idea of ​​the Christ child in angelic form or as a baby emerging from the crib come from? What is certain is that until the Middle Ages there was no talk of a Christ child bringing gifts. The children were traditionally given presents on St. Nicholas' Day or "Day of the Innocent Children" on December 28th.

That changed in the 16th century with Martin Luther, who wanted to eliminate the veneration of saints in the course of the Reformation. St. Nicholas did not fit into the new worldview of the Protestants, instead God himself should come back into focus. So Luther quickly replaced Nicholas with the "Holy Christ", that is, Jesus, who takes shape as an infant in the manger. Over the centuries, this led to the idea that Christ descends from heaven every year for the festival. In some Protestant regions of Germany, the figure of the baby Jesus changed into an angelic being with a crown and goldilocks as gifts.

However, St. Nicholas was still responsible for the Catholic children, who continued to give presents on St. Nicholas Day until the beginning of the 20th century. For a long time Germany was thus divided into Catholic "Nikolaus" and Protestant "Christkind" parts. When the importance of religion in the population decreased, a customization took place: The Christ Child moved into the Catholic households together with the Christmas tree and the Advent wreath. At the same time, more and more Protestant families were enjoying the nativity scene.

Angel under suspicion of kitsch

The Christ Child in his angelic form is suspected of being kitsch. In any case, it no longer has much to do with the idea of ​​the Christ child in the manger. His pedagogical claim to totalitarian surveillance - "the Christ Child sees everything" - calls critics on the scene.

In contrast, it is easier for the Santa Clause group with their bearded "fat" in a consumer-oriented world. However, many people are unlikely to be aware of the mutations that their Santa Claus has already gone through. He has long since strayed from his Christian roots and thus from his good reputation.

St. Nicholas' mutation

Santa Claus can practically not be explained without his forerunner, Santa Claus. This goes back to the European folk legends about St. Nicholas of Myra from Asia Minor, today's Turkey. He was a bishop in the fourth century and is considered the patron saint of sailors and children. In his honor, children were given presents every year on the day of his death, December 6th. It was only during the Reformation that the day of giving presents moved to December 24th.

Today's Santa Claus is a relatively young figure. The name is first recorded in 1820 and became popular from 1837 by Hoffmann von Fallersleben's writings. From 1880 it replaced the idea of ​​the Christ Child in enlightened Protestant areas, especially in the cities. However, he is a Christmas figure without "heavenly references". The bourgeoisie used him as an "auxiliary teacher" to encourage children to lead a virtuous life.

Softened and commercialized

Nicholas lost his episcopal attributes such as chasuble, crosier and cap. He became a hermaphrodite creature who combined the character traits of the good-natured Nikolaus, the good children, and his companion, Knecht Ruprecht, who chastised bullies with the rod. So today, Santa Claus competes with himself as Santa Claus.

In the United States, Irish and Dutch immigrants spread St. Nicholas. They took the patron saint they venerated to the "new world". There, however, he lost his religious significance and, as Santa Claus, became the personification of Christmas gifts. Through the film adaptations of Walt Disney, the changed and commercialized Santa Claus returned to Europe, where he merged with the somewhat stricter German Santa Claus.

The drawing template for the bespectacled, fat man with a long beard comes from Thomas Nast from Landau in the Palatinate, who emigrated to New York in 1846. He designed different versions of the picture and finally created the cozy Santa Claus. But it was not until 1931 that the Coca-Cola Company adopted Nast's template for an advertising campaign and in this way shaped the image of Santa Claus that we know today. A lemonade company made a decisive contribution to the worldwide spread of Santa Claus and ensured that he became an icon of the consumer industry.

Status: December 22nd, 2017, midnight