Without much debate, we can agree that the name Santa Claus is one that most of us have heard. He is also known as Kris Kringle, Saint Nick and Father Christmas to name a few. Discussion, then becomes around the mystery. Who was the original Santa? Where did he come from? Who invented him? Some may think that he is a curse, keeping children in control by threatening the lack of presents if they act out. Others, believe in the magick of his or her (we will get to this) spirit. The hope of a brighter light in the most darkest of seasons.
Santa Claus seemed to be first born from a monk named…. you guessed it, Saint Nicholas. It is roughly estimated that Saint Nicholas, the monk, was born around the year 280 A.D. in what is now modern day Turkey. Saint Nick would travel the countryside aiding the sick and poor. In doing this, he used and gave away his wealth inheritance, or so legend says. As Saint Nicholas’s popular increased, he began the patron of children and sailors. Saint Nick’s feast day is on December 6th. Also, the day he passed.
As immigrants came to the Americas, so did the legend of St. Nick. Families would gather to celebrate and honor his death. They called him from his Dutch Nickname, Sinter Klass, which was a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). His popularity once again grew, making way for hope.
The Movie “Miracle on 34th Street” from 1947 has pretty much been the source to popularize the name Kris Kringle. Enduringly, the man who is Kris also portrays the infamous Macy’s Department Store Santa (definitely worth a watch if you have not seen it as yet). You may be surprised, however, to learn that the name, Kris Kringle, existed well before the movie classic.
It is sad but not surprising that the figure of St. Nicholas would be discouraged during the Protestant Reformation of the 1500’s. It was during this time that Martin Luther and followers introduced “Christkind.” On Christmas Eve they would secretly come and bring presents to all the ‘good’ children. Christkind (Christ-child in German) would be changed to Kriss Kringle in the 1840’s. From there it soon became another popular nickname for Santa Claus.
Wait. what? We live in modern times but often refer to Claus as being male. In history, though, there are many references to female Santa’s. One such woman was Nancy Bird Walton, also called “The Angel of the Outback” as she piloted a female Santa Claus in 1935. Before Walton, there were reports of a “Sydney’s Woman Santa. Her real name was Thelma Lewis. These women stepped into territory held previously by men. Walton was suspended from flying for her par-take as it was determined that a woman were not “biologically suited” for the activity. I would like to see them take this on in our more modern world today.
Now that we know some of the history of the first Santa’s, let us jump to today’s world. Long white beard old gents fill the shopping malls and department stores. Some folks take the stand that promoting Santa is lying to a child, giving them false hope and later disappointment. Many families are stressed when the gift giving season starts and feel frustrated when they can not keep up with the Jones’s who have just given their only child an Ipad Pro, Playstaion 5 or other pricey item that not every one could easily afford. Others view it as a Christian Curse or commercial nightmare. They could be right on some aspects.
The Magick of Belief
I have to admit that when I found out that Santa was not real, I was deeply disappointed. That did not, however, stop me from bringing him back to life for my own children. In fact, I did do quite well in bringing him back. So much in fact, that my daughter (then 12-13) argued the point that Santa was indeed real to her classmates. Her reasoning? Her mother could never have managed all those gifts under the tree herself. We simply were “too poor”.
Believing in “The Spirit of Santa” is slightly different than giving credit entirely to one person though. The Spirit of Santa is the belief that magick will make way, that good will prevail, things will be okay. It is hope and there is a lot of magick in hope… and believing in such hope.
No matter what, gift giving was going to happen. My trust was given to my spirit guides. I believed that there was a spirt of Santa that would provide, and it did. My children believed fully too. I had help. Organizations that pulled together for my family. People who saw the hardship and wanted to help. That is the true magick of the Santa and of the season. Now that I am able, I look for those families that may need my help as well.
The other important piece here is that it is not just gift giving that makes this such a wonderful time. It is really the memories. Where we lacked in presents, we made up for by activities. Ginger bread house making, cookie baking, decorating the tree even when it was just a paper one on the wall. These brought us together as a family. This made way for new traditions, the real spirit of Santa.