Sunday, December 03, 2006

Modern Myths: No.5: Santa Claus

This concludes my Modern Myths series for now, although I will probably add to it more in the future. I've left the most important one this week until last, of course :-)

Myth 5: Santa Claus does not really exist and anyway, he's nothing but trouble. He makes us spend vast amounts of cash we don't have, fills our shops with garish, useless, child-tempting clutter and our children's eyes full of greedy promise. He's an invention of the modern church, at best a bloated, drunken old man who sits children on his knee and interrogates them and at worst he deliberately, maliciously causes nervous breakdowns in their parents. Without Santa Claus, the world would be a much better place. Santa should be banished to the North Pole, where he belongs. Bah, humbug.

The Truth: Haven't you seen the film? Santa is on our side! He works tirelessly all year round to make healthy wooden toys for our children, just one each, specially chosen, to brighten their long, dark, snowy winters.

Patch the elf is the bad guy! He leaves the North Pole and goes to work for the evil business mogul and nasty plastic/electronic-toy empire owner, B.Z. But BZ's toys don't work and are dangerous, which luckily Patch and therefore the rest of the world realises in the end.

The real Santa Claus actually wants to remind us of a world gone by, when we had proper fires and chimneys, when winter was hard because it's COLD! And there's not much food, except what people have carefully saved up for the one, big, midwinter blow-out when we banish the darkness with candles, the cold with fires, the misery with friendliness, the grey chill with an amazingly green tree and the deprivation with gifts.

We absolutely needed that feast to see us through the dark months until Spring when the first green shoots surfaced and we could go out and plant seeds again so that we'd have food for the following year.

But the world has gone mad now. Our winters are full of lights, central heating, money and freezer food. Our children have bright shiny toys all year round. What we're short of now is TIME, because sustaining all this artificiality is very time consuming and the continuing, seemingly unnecessary existence of Christmas only exacerbates this fact.

This is not Santa's fault and it isn't his preference.

The real Santa Claus wants to cherish each child and give just one or two small, unextravagant gifts, carefully crafted or chosen with love. The real Santa wants to ask us: "Where are your chimneys? How am I supposed to climb inside this central heating flue? You call that a fireplace?? What do you mean, your child doesn't know what a carrot is?" He intends for us to pull up a chair by the fireside at bedtime, at least one night a year, with our child on our knee and tell the magical story about flying reindeer and a night that lasts forever, until all the toys are delivered.

He exists to remind us that anything is possible. Time can be elastic, if you have something vitally important and right to do in an impossibly small section of it. You can fly around the world on a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer if you have to. Why not? Who says you can't?

If our houses are full of unwanted, unplayed with toys and our towns are filled with expensive garish merchandise and our real lives are empty - even childless, in many cases and we have nobody with whom we really want to feast, that's not Santa's fault. He only keeps doggedly trying to remind us of the alternative. Perhaps that's why we resent him so much and try to pretend that he doesn't exist ;-)


Anonymous Jax said...

Now I rather enjoyed that.

10:08 am, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...

My only quibble. Why do you blame the church they don't run department stores? I would have thought the finger should be pointed at Sears, Selfridges, Harrods etc (oh, and Hollywood), who hire the fat old men to promote sales. But then, I know nothing, I don't think I ever believed in Santa, even when I was very young.

10:14 am, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Jax xx

Merry Christmas Tim, and may it be full of humbugs for you! Ho ho ho :-)

Well I guess the shops and the money people are partly to blame, but aren't they just the natural successors of the control-freak churchmen who tried to convince us that Santa was one of *their* guys? They renamed our man and they renamed our feast even tried to confuse us further by moving it a few days, but it doesn't change the truth even if we've forgotten what it was originally called.

They can't stop us knowing in our hearts that Santa is just another name for the magical spirit of the ancient midwinter festival of lights, embodied in kindest old man with the twinkling eyes, who happens to sport the biggest, reddest and warmest of coats.

10:24 am, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Tech said...

I think you just summed up why I don't like Santa. Father Christmas conjures up that old man with the twinkle in his eye for me, where as Santa - well, it's just an anagram isn't it? ;-)

We do magic big time in this house; we have the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, father christmas and others, and my girls, who are nearly 11, still believe. Why not? I'd rather they had a little magic in their lives than the alternative. Soooooooo relieved to read this post :-D

10:58 am, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Now Tech, do you want a name with saint in it or a name with christ in it?

Two choices: church or church ^^

I prefer the former, but there's not much in it.

We need another name for him, maybe. What did we used to call him? Does anyone still know?

11:06 am, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Tech said...

ROFL nowhere to run, nowhere to hide eh ;-)

But.. Christ, well, is it not from Christos which I have a vague recollection of being something to do with *light*?

Just found this: "The Christ or the Logos. The awakening consiousness at the heart of all things. Also called Adamah in Genesis. Both Jesus and Krishna are men said to be overshadowed and enlightened by the fullness of the Christos, when the Kundalini was released." So in the name of subversion I can happily go with a name with Christ in it - how do you do those little horns - ah yes ^^ !!

According to the modern pagan, *the departing Holly King brought gifts as he rode his solar sleigh, pulled by 8 reindeer on yule eve. The Oak King arrives as the Holly King departs.* Might have to post the whole on my blog and get all contentious again ;-)

11:28 am, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh that's good, yes I could go with that logic too :-)

By the same token I don't mind Santa Claus either because I have a feeling St Nicolaus (?) was an alright kind of guy, even if he wasn't THE man in question - he maybe embodied the same kind of spirit.

1:07 pm, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Louise said...

Thanks for that Gill, I have been feeling decidedly humbug much to the displeasure of my geared up for xmas day kids. That made me smile though xxxx

1:36 pm, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Always glad to make you smile Lou

1:51 pm, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...

St Nicholas Centre - interesting.

2:08 pm, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh cool! The perfect site. I'll have a good read through that. Thanks Tim!

2:33 pm, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Rosie said...

Thanks for helping to banish my humbug, Gill, and reminding me that we do Santa for the magic and cheer- we do need it at this time of year ;-)
I seem to remember a green Santa - can't tremember what he was called. I once did a solstice party where we had a mother earth type figure bearing gifts.

6:16 pm, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Ooh I remember seeing pictures of a green Santa, and I was chatting with the teens about it yesterday when Zar's boyfriend said coca-cola made him red for an ad campaign. He was apparently green before.

Zara also said he had his origins in some shamans hallucinogenic drug experiences. ??

I maybe need to read that page more carefully.

6:12 am, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Have read it now. It's all about St Nick, nothing about shamen. Zara will be most disappointed!

6:37 am, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...



List of winter festivals

Should lead you where you want to go.

The green father christmas can be seen on old German Christmas cards, which I think were brought to England by Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke in Saxony.

7:44 pm, December 04, 2006  
Anonymous Jax said...

it wasn't coca cola though.

8:02 pm, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Hmmm, thanks again. They led me to some interesting Yule/Christmas links like this one:

And this one, which tells us: "Yule or the Winter Solstice, is possibly the most important celebration of the year for those who follow the Ancestral religions of Asatru/Odinism. It begins on the Mother Night (Dec. 20th) and ends on the 12th Night (Dec. 31st). During the twelve sacred days, Asatruar around Vinland, Europe, or wherever they find themselves, celebrate this special time of the year. Feasting, giving of gifts, tree decorating, visiting with relatives and close friends, religious observances and more - are all part of this magical twelve day period, and have been observed by millions of our ancestors for tens of thousands of years - long before the appearance of the Judaic-based religion of Christianity."

And this about gift-giving: " It was common to share your provisions with your blood relatives and “tried friends”, at this time of the year… especially if they come up short on supplies. It was a matter of survival. Obviously, you would not give gifts to an enemy or to outright strangers. That kind of action might endanger the future of your tribe. It was a time to share, and thereby ensure the future of your clan. This was often the food given and used at the Feast. Another reason to Feast! Over time, the items given as gifts, increased and began to included things other than food. In ancient, Pagan Rome, gift giving became extremely elaborate and superstitious at the Winter Solstice. So much so, that failure to give certain gifts of quality and substance, could mean bad luck in the coming year! After the arrival of the “Christ”, the early Christians tried desperately to suppress the giving of gifts at the Yuletide, because of its clearly Pagan origins. However its appeal was too great, and they failed repeatedly to stamp out this Heathen tradition. Finally, as they always do, they gave up and absorbed it into their religion… made it their own."

This bit relates to the origin of Father Christmas:

"The Pagan Vikings would dress someone up to represent Old Man Winter, and then make him as welcome as possible. The British eventually adopted this custom, and after the advent of Christianity, called him Old Father Christmas. He was welcomed into each household to enjoy all the Feasting and festivities. He was plied with Mead and food to try and keep him in a good mood. It was hoped that these activities would make for a mild Winter and a good Spring. Much later, this ancient Pagan figure, was confused with Santa Claus, and today most think of them as one in the same. Actually "Santa Claus", as he is most commonly known, started out as a Christian Monk who died in 345 CE. and who eventually gained sainthood. Needless to say, he eventually became more popular than "the Christ" and was burned in effigy by the French clergy, in the middle part of the 20th century! Finally, in 1969 CE, Pope Paul VI demoted him in non-saint status! Today, the fat, jolly, red suited Old Man is actually an invention of the Coca-Cola Company. Strange, but true! In 1931, Coca-Cola hired an artist to redesign Santa Claus for their Winter advertising campaign.. Red and white are the official colours of Coca-Cola, hence the Old Man's new outfit. Since that time, the look of Santa Claus has been carved in stone.
Years ago Father Christmas or Old Man Winter, would appear in green, purple, blue, blue-black or even brown, often trimmed with brown, black or white furs. Sometimes even covered head to toe in fur skins. But no more! True to Corporate America's goal's, now all see him as the fat jolly man in the red suit, with lots of goodies for everyone.

"Before Clement Moore write his famous poem in 1822, Father Christmas travelled by foot or by giant White horse (Sleiper? - Odin's eight legged horse). But Moore, a very learned man and professor of Literature, changed all of that forever when he introduced the idea of reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh. This was not done on a casual whim, but came from an ancient Finnish legend about "Old Man Winter". The Ancient Finns belied that Old Man Winter drove the reindeer down the mountains, into the lowlands each year with the coming of the cold (food source?). Moore grafted part of this Finnish legend onto the existing Farther Christmas. Why eight reindeer? Some scholars have speculated that the professor was having some fun with the general populace by perking up his tale with a scholarly reference to Odin, who rides an eight legged horse. As well known author, Desmond Morris has stated:

"Odin's horse carried the god around when, clad in a large cloak and hat, he set out to meet his people, dispensing rewards and punishments as they were due. There are clearly elements there suggesting that Odin was a precursor of the Farther Christmas-Santa Claus figure, and it may have amused Moore to incorporate at least one Odin feature in his new creation". "

Now we know! :-)

8:02 pm, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh yes Jax, according to that site it was:

" A Boston printer named Louis Prang [who] introduced the English custom of Christmas cards to America, and in 1885 he issued a card featuring a red-suited Santa. The chubby Santa with a red suit (like an "overweight superhero") began to replace the fur-dressed Belsnickle image and the multicolored Santas."

I love the Santa-on-a-bike pic there!

8:06 pm, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...

"So much so, that failure to give certain gifts of quality and substance, could mean bad luck in the coming year!"

"Here you go Caligula, I got you some socks!"

".... Gee thanks, I forsee a year of bad luck coming for you..." :)

11:14 pm, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...


11:19 pm, December 04, 2006  
Blogger mamacrow said...

well, not a lot left to say really, other than that I've seen victorian illustrations of FC that show him in blue and green robes.

and there are a WEALTH of old stories in the scandinavian countries about various 'Old Winter' figures, flying and all that. Also there are other similar gift giveing ones, Kriss Kringle, Babooshka (russian). All over.

St Nicohlas was apparently a Bishop in (help, somewhere european...) and he secretly gifted a family of three girls some bags of gold so they'd have douries and not have to go into prostition. He also ended up the patron saint of children, if memorie surves.

And intrestedly, sussex mummers plays often have a figure called Old Father Christmas who tends to sit with older paganny bits of the text and story. if that makes sense.

oh and yeah, the word and concept of Christ predates Jesus. In the greek, christos starts with an X, hense Xmas. Also, Jesus is actually the greek version of the name, the orginal hebrew being Joshua. Jesus loosly means son of zeus, which is the greek way of saying Son of God.

8:36 pm, December 08, 2008  

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