Is Santa Claus a mythical character? Well many might know that Santa Claus is based on a true character of the 4th Century Bishop of Myra, who was known as St. Nicholas. Just how did he change into a “ho-ho”-ing Santa Claus? Well it seems to come from the Dutch pronunciation of St. Nicholas, which is Sinterklaas!
So what is it about Santa Claus coming down the chimney bringing gifts for children? This ‘belief’ comes from the famous and oft-recounted, story of St. Nicholas and the merchant Demetri. Nicholas (who was anointed Saint later), was well meaning and was known for his kindness and generosity. There are numerous stories of his generosity being extended towards numerous people including children, women and just about anybody who needed aid. One such instance is about a merchant Demetri who didn’t have money for the dowry of his daughter’s wedding. It is said that Nicholas, dropped a bag of gold coins down Demetri’s chimney. Such stories and many other were later adapted to the character of St. Nicholas post his Sainthood. Though, December 6th was celebrated as the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, over the years, it has got merged with Christmas and is now celebrated on December 25th.
Though the origins of St. Nicholas have Dutch roots, the modern day version of Santa Claus, has its beginnings in America of today. The present day avatar of Santa Claus being a cute old man who is slightly overweight, is based on the drawings of cartoonist, Thomas Nast. Over a period of time, the cute drawings got well ingrained in people’s mind and the present day pot-bellied, bearded Santa Claus is what has stuck on in people’s minds. Along with Santa Claus, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and other characters and concepts have got attached and today you have a whole bunch of myths associated with St. Nicholas.
So Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, children have loved this character over the ages. Parents have helped perpetuate this myth of Santa watching children from the heavens, and bringing gifts only if you have been good all the year, etc.! Children over the years have been children, but parents still buy gifts keeping up with the tradition of Nicholas, giving gifts to all who are in need. Many also feel that the practice of giving gifts to all during Christmas is based on the gifts brought by the Three Wise Men (Magi) to the new-born Jesus.
Whatever, the practice, or the belief, and despite the accusations of commercialising a religious festival, I for one feel, that anything that brings a smile on someone’s face is worth doing, and that should be the true nature of any festival. So this festive season, spread the cheer and joy and give from your heart!
Merry Christmas to all and hope Santa visits your home, through the door as many of our apartments do not have chimneys anymore and may he bring along with him all the goodies that you need or want or simply wish!!