Something shot through the small window and hit the sleeping girl, waking her with a start. On the meager blanket lay a bag that had burst open and spilled coins over her arms–more than enough for the dowry that would allow her to marry the young man she adored.
“Mama! Look! I can marry now!”
The girl’s mother rose from her cot. “Let me see, child.”
The girl’s young brother, more bone than boy, raced through the doorway with a cloth sack. When he dropped it on the small table, it burst open and blocks of cheese, loaves of bread, and a partridge fell out.
“And we can eat!” The boy dug through the food stuffs and lifted a small wooden soldier. “This is for me!”
The mother came to the table, drawn as much by the fragrance as the hunger in her belly. “Yes, a toy for you,” the mother whispered. “And, food enough until your father’s ship returns home.”
The girl drew the cloth from beneath the items. A smile slid across her lips. “And, Mama, you can use this as a shawl to keep you warm.”
The three gazed at each other, but only the little boy asked the question. “Who left these for us?”
On December 6, in the city of Myra in Turkey during the fourth century AD, a young man began tossing bags of money into the houses of girls who had no dowry so they could avoid ending up on the streets as prostitutes or sold into slavery. His name was Nicholas, the son of a wealthy family and it was this young man who continued seeing to the unfortunate until he, too, had no inheritance left. But his generosity was not forgotten or ignored. The church deemed him a bishop, and after his death, he became known as St. Nicolas, patron saint of sailors and children.
The tradition of gift giving of course had spread throughout history and across the world. Romans enjoyed giving gifts to one another and often shared with the poor. Yes, they did.
By the 13th century,this generosity changed to giving to those less fortunate but without recognition as St Nicholas and those who assisted him. By the time of the Reformation, Protestants changed the gift-giver to the Christ Child or Christkindle, and later corrupted to Kris Kringle. However, in Holland, St. Nicholas became known as Sinter Klaas and later corrupted to Santa Claus.
America was thriving by this time and the Dutch brought this gift-giving tradition to New Amsterdam ( later known as New York) where it thrived.
Over time, St Nick had changed not only his name but his appearance. He was seen as a tall gaunt man or a spooky-looking elf, a tall lean man wearing bishop robes or Norse huntsman wearing animal hides in colors from green, to white, to purple as well as red. With or without a beard.
Washington Irvin described Santa Claus as a jovial old self in his short stories based on the Old English countryside tradition that he cherished. This was captured by a an artist, Thomas Nast, who also drew Santa as a small elflike figure who supported the Union during the Civil War. Nast continued to draw Santa for the next 30 years, changing the colors of Santa’s attire from green to red and more.
In 1920, the Coca Cola company wanted a wholesome happy Santa for their ads and commissioned Haddon Sundblom to develop images they could use to sell their beverage in magazines as the Saturday Evening Post. and Lady’s Home Journal. Sundblom used a live model to make his Santa… a friend and retired salesman named Lu Prentiss. When Prentiss passed away, Sundblom used himself by looking in a mirror. He also used neighborhood children or pet poodles for his artwork for Coca Cola.
By this time, Clement Clark Moore’s poem ‘A Visit from St Nicolas‘ had become extremely popular and established St Nick as a warm friendly, pleasantly, plump Santa we know today. We also know this poem as ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’
In 1931, the world’s largest soda fountain was in Famous Barr Co in St. Louis MO. It was here that Fred Mizen’s drawing of Santa enjoying a Coke was presented and Santa;s icon was set. From 1931 to 1964, Santa has been wearing red since Coca Cola’s signature color is red. And still is. And I like him in red.
In 1942, Coca Cola introduced ‘Sprite Boy’ who appeared as a sprite or an elf with Santa. Together, from 1940-1950, these two gave out gifts and Cokes in Sundblom’s ads. But, the beverage known as Sprite didn’t appear until 1960’s
Now we already know that people helped St Nick, St. Nicolas, Kris Kringle, Krista Klaas, or Santa Claus deliver his gifts, so they became his elves.
But what about the chimney, reindeer and the North Pole? From Moore’s poem of course. But where did he get them? The Saami people of northern Scandinavia and Finland where they harness heavy reindeer to their sleighs during the winter.
Or from the Norse god Woden/Oden who rode a flying, 8 legged horse. Seriously, I’m not kidding.
Thomas Nast was the one who established Santa as living at the North Pole and gave him his workshop along with the infamous large book of names of good boys and girls.
Then along came Norman Rockwell and the image of Santa was all but etched in stone.
So today, this ‘gift-giving’ time of year has changed little since we still gather to wish
so many a happy, healthy, blessed, wonderful Christmas holiday. Be sure to help give a child, a family, someone a smile this season by giving a gift to someone who needs a special bit of love.
But to many of us, the best gift of all is, was, and always will be...
Just for the holidays all my books are $.99. (Amazon wouldn’t let me post them for free.) So be sure to snap them up before the new year. My gift to you.
click here http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0098BFKHK
Blessings and have a blessed and wonderful new year,
I would love to hear from you too. Please leave a comment.
If you enjoy learning more about history through the holidays, be sure to enjoy more from fantastic authors who also enjoy ‘casting light upon the darkness’ in this Blog Hop. Just click on the name and have a great time…hopping.
- Helen Hollick : A little light relief concerning those dark reviews! Plus a Giveaway Prize
- Debra Brown : The use of Light on Book Cover Art
- Prue Batten : Casting Light….
- Alison Morton Shedding light on the Roman dusk – Plus a Giveaway Prize!
- Anna Belfrage Let there be light!
- Beth Elliott : Steering by the Stars. Stratford Canning in Constantinople, 1810/12
- Melanie Spiller : Lux Aeterna, the chant of eternal light
- Janet Reedman The Winter Solstice Monuments
- Petrea Burchard : Darkness – how did people of the past cope with the dark? Plus a Giveaway Prize!
- Richard Denning : The Darkest Years of the Dark Ages: what do we really know? Plus a Giveaway Prize!
- Pauline Barclay : Shedding Light on a Traditional Pie
- David Ebsworth : Propaganda in the Spanish Civil War
- David Pilling : Greek Fire – Plus a Giveaway Prize!
- Debbie Young : Fear of the Dark
- Derek Birks : Lies, Damned Lies and … Chronicles
- Mark Patton : Casting Light on Saturnalia
- Tim Hodkinson : Soltice@Newgrange
- Wendy Percival : Ancestors in the Spotlight
- Judy Ridgley : Santa and his elves Plus a Giveaway Prize
- Suzanne McLeod : The Dark of the Moon
- Katherine Bone : Admiral Nelson, A Light in Dark Times
- Christina Courtenay : The Darkest Night of the Year
- Edward James : The secret life of Christopher Columbus; Which Way to Paradise?
- Janis Pegrum Smith : Into The Light – A Short Story
- Julian Stockwin : Ghost Ships – Plus a Giveaway Present
- Manda Scott : Dark into Light – Mithras, and the older gods
- Pat Bracewell Anglo-Saxon Art: Splendor in the Dark
- Lucienne Boyce : We will have a fire – 18th Century protests against enclosure
- Nicole Evelina What Lurks Beneath Glastonbury Abbey?
- Sky Purington : How the Celts Cast Light on Current American Christmas Traditions
- Stuart MacAllister (Sir Read A Lot) : The Darkness of Depression