Is Santa Claus alive?
Who is Santa Claus and why does he give gifts?
When Santa Claus comes - in some places on Christmas Eve, in others on the morning of December 25th - he has presents with him. But why is that and how did the symbol figure come about?
by Felix Klabe
The figure of Santa Claus is probably one of the most charming lies in the world. So there should be someone who comes from far away and who manages that gifts for millions and millions of people are under the Christmas tree at almost the same time. It's not realistic. But put the mind of an adult aside for a moment: This picture is meaningful - and not only for children who look through keyholes between joy and awe on Christmas Eve, perhaps to catch a glimpse of the unknown gift bringer. But also for those who actually no longer believe in him.
Santa Claus - a symbol for giving
Because behind Santa Claus - or Santa Claus, as he is called in the USA - there is essentially more to it than massive consumption, which is discussed again and again every year. His figure goes back to a centuries-old tradition that is closely linked to giving. And because the act of giving - experts should agree - also means communication, there can be nothing bad about it at first.
Nevertheless: The criticism of the excesses of the festival - in some places chocolate Santa Clauses are already on the shelves in late summer - and on Santa Claus as a symbol for this is meanwhile as firmly associated with the fat, old, friendly man as his white beard, his bushy eyebrows red robe, his fur-trimmed cap.
Did Coca Cola invent Santa Claus?
This is Santa Claus today. A figure in whose appearance and commercialization the US beverage company Coca-Cola played a major role. Because the shower experts attacked the round, defenseless man in 1931 - at that time the world had not even had the darkest economic crisis in history behind it - as the face of a successful advertising campaign. But the company did not invent Santa Claus.
Original figure: The Merciful and Saint Nicholas
Rather, it has its origin in the figure of Saint Nicholas. In his honor, children from the 14th century onwards are given gifts on December 6th. But why he of all people? Two historical figures are merged in the figure of Saint Nicholas. Firstly, Nikolaus von Myra: He lived in the third century and was bishop of a city in what is now Turkey. The other historical person that goes into the figure is Nicholas of Sion from the sixth century, who lived in a place near Myra. The legends about the life of the two men are interwoven with the figure of St. Nicholas of Myra, who, according to traditional stories, is said to have performed numerous miracles: He soothed a storm, brought the dead back to life and "saved three young women from prostitution, by throwing their father's gold pieces through the window at night, "explains Nils Neumann, biblical scholar and professor at Leibniz University in Hanover. With this selfless act, the myth of the merciful helper and protector was born, who gives presents to children unrecognized at night.
Luther establishes his Christ Child
But then came Martin Luther, the reformer who didn't think much of the veneration of saints. The propagated: Away from the cult around individual persons, back to faith, to Jesus. The St. Nicholas custom still exists today on December 6th, but in the Netherlands it is Sinterklaas. With the Reformation in the 16th century, however, the great gift-giving company was to become a different one. Thus around 1530 the "Holy Christian" established himself in the Luther household as a bringer of gifts who was not supposed to have anything to do with consecrated bishops. According to Luther's wish, with him the gifts no longer fell at the beginning of the month, but at Christmas. Whether the "Holy Christ" should be the little Jesus or an angel-like figure is a matter of dispute among historians. In any case, after decades he had become the Christ Child. And it is known that it wears white robes and wings on its back. Interestingly enough, Luther's Protestant symbol can now be found more in the more southern, Catholic regions of Germany.
The gift giver becomes worldly
Over the centuries, the custom of giving presents at Christmas has grown in families and acts as a pedagogical tool: those who are good receive presents. If you don't, you get a rod that Knecht Ruprecht, the companion of St. Nicholas, originally had with him. In the end, the figure of Santa Claus is a mixture of many customs, which in the course of the 19th century increasingly broke away from the Christ Child and the original Saint Nicholas and became more and more secular.
An unknown person illustrated eight pictures for the poem "Old Santeclaus with Much Delight", which among other things show a man in a red coat - for the first time on a reindeer sleigh. It was published in 1821 in "The Children's Friend: A New-Year's Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve", a small book by the US poet William B. Gilley. Two years later, Clement Clarke Moore describes bearded Santa Claus in his famous poem "The Night Before Christmas". The German poet Hoffmann von Fallersleben, on the other hand, describes the upcoming mess in his song "Tomorrow comes Santa Claus". His Santa Claus brings the children all sorts of things that are obviously useful in 1835, between the July Revolution and the German Revolution: saber, rifle, a flag.
Away with the bishop look in the 19th century
Further texts about Santa Claus and also caricatures appear from the second half of the 19th century - in newspapers and also in Heinrich Hoffmann's children's book "Struwwelpeter". In the meantime, the fat man has taken off the ecclesiastical robe of Saint Nicholas, as well as the miter, the classic bishop's cap, and the crosier. They were replaced by coats and pointed hats. Saint Nicholas, who was at least sent into oblivion by the reformer Luther, is slowly becoming Santa Claus. In 1862, for example, cartoonist Thomas Nast, who emigrated from the Palatinate to what is now the USA, also draws a fat, bearded man who supplies Union soldiers from the north with gifts. Years later, the representation of Santa Claus is already damn close to today's figure.
Gifts as "concrete help for survival"
With the Coca-Cola campaign in 1931, Santa's triumphant advance in the world continued and in times of increasing prosperity, giving people increasingly changes from an act of one-sided giving to mutual "happiness". In the Bible itself there are no direct references to reciprocal giving as we know it today in the Christmas context, says biblical scholar Neumann. In the early Christian era, in the first centuries in particular, giving should be understood as "concrete help for survival" rather than as "an expression of individualized affection, an increase in the joy of life or the hope of a pleasant coexistence". So less of a mutual giving
The gifts of the three wise men at the birth of Christ should also be viewed more as gifts in one direction. Your gifts honor the newly born Jesus as King.
Christmas: the big giving
For many, this "individualized affection" is probably the greatest challenge when giving gifts at festivities. Handing over something that pleases, that is fun, that of course also meets certain expectations, is not easy for everyone. Nor is it the appropriate reaction to a gift that may not suit your own taste. Either way: On these days there is always the possibility of putting the blame on Santa Claus. That's what he's there for too.
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Hello Lower Saxony | 12/24/2019 | 19:30 o'clock
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