Category: Holiday’s


Pagan Roots Of Easter

The pagan roots of Easter

From Ishtar to Eostre, the roots of the resurrection story go deep. We should embrace the pagan symbolism of Easter.

Easter is a pagan festival. If Easter isn’t really about Jesus, then what is it about? Today, we see a secular culture celebrating the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection. However, early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter. The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world. There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too.

The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. One of the oldest resurrection myths is Egyptian Horus. Born on 25 December, Horus and his damaged eye became symbols of life and rebirth. Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome. Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life.

In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today’s Vatican Hill. Cybele’s lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection. There was violent conflict on Vatican Hill in the early days of Christianity between the Jesus worshippers and pagans who quarrelled over whose God was the true, and whose the imitation. What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts. So, eventually Christianity came to an accommodation with the pagan Spring festival. Although we see no celebration of Easter in the New Testament, early church fathers celebrated it, and today many churches are offering “sunrise services” at Easter – an obvious pagan solar celebration. The date of Easter is not fixed, but instead is governed by the phases of the moon – how pagan is that?

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.

Easter is essentially a pagan festival which is celebrated with cards, gifts and novelty Easter products, because it’s fun and the ancient symbolism still works. It’s always struck me that the power of nature and the longer days are often most felt in modern towns and cities, where we set off to work without putting on our car headlights and when our alarm clock goes off in the mornings, the streetlights outside are not still on because of the darkness.

What better way to celebrate, than to bite the head off the bunny goddess, go to a “sunrise service”, get yourself a sticky-footed fluffy chick and stick it on your TV, whilst helping yourself to a hefty slice of pagan simnel cake? Happy Easter everyone!

Originally the word Valentine meant the person whose name was picked from a box to be chosen as your sweetheart up until the 1500’s. Then around 1533, it meant the folded piece of paper with the sweetheart’s name on it. By 1610 it then became the gift given to this special someone and by 1824 it then became a poem, letter or verse to a sweetheart.

Although Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 every year, it originates from the Roman celebration called Lupercalia, which was held on February 15, a fertility festival.

Roman armies invaded countries physically as well as socially. When the Romans invaded France, they introduced this festival in which Roman boys drew names of Roman girls out of an urn (to determine their partners) and then the couple exchanged gifts on the festival’s day. This was considered a pagan celebration, so in 469 C.E., Pope Gelasius decided to put a Christian spin on this celebration by declaring that it was now to honor St. Valentine (A young Roman who was martyred by Emperor Claudius II who was said to have died on February 14, 270 C.E. for refusing to give up Christianity).

Why was he killed? Rumor has it that St. Valentine was a priest who defied the emperor’s ban on marriages by marrying young people in secret. He was discovered, and put to death.
Note: Why was marriage banned?

According to legend in the 3rd century after Christ, the Emperor Claudius II did not want any of his soldiers falling in love and marrying because he felt women and families distracted the soldier’s from their duty to him. And in some cases made the men not want to go to war at all. And he needed more soldiers so he declared marriage illegal. And anyone performing this ceremony would be killed.

Another story goes like this…A man named Valentine (who was in prison for helping persecuted Christians) witnessed to his jailor and ended up converting his entire family to Christianity. The jailor also had a blind daughter, Julia, that Valentine ended up falling in love with (as well as restoring her sight). But love did not prevail. 😦 On the morning of Valentine’s execution, he sent a message to the daughter signed, “From your Valentine.”

Italy also had another Spring festival during the Middle Ages (un-named btw) in which young singles gathered in the gardens to listen to love poetry and romantic music. Afterward they paired off and strolled through the trees and flowers etc. In France this pairing-off custom went on for a while, but it ended up causing a lot of jealousies and became more trouble than it was worth and was dropped. But in England the custom of young men drawing names for “Valentines” or sweethearts remained for centuries even after the Roman occupation ended. The young men in England would write down all the names of the young women on pieces of paper and then roll them up tightly and put them in a bowl. The young men (blindfolded) would take turns drawn a name from the bowl. The girl’s name that he drew meant that she would be his “valentine” for the next year. I might add: Wouldn’t a guy’s handwriting give away who wrote whose name on this paper? 😉 So I wondered how many guys actually drew the name of the girl they submitted? (wink!)

Another variation on this festival goes like this: Two Roman youths (who were blessed by their priest) would run through the streets swinging a goatskin thong called a Februa. The Latin word is Februatio, (the act of lashing with sacred thongs) and was believed to be for purification. From this word comes our word “February”. And the belief is that if a woman was touched by this thong, she would be able to bear children better. Thus again, we go back to a similarity with fertility?
According to the legend, they did this to honor their God Faunus, the god of crops. (Similar to the Greek God, Pan.)

February might not be considered Spring for many of us today, especially in certain areas of the US where there is still snow on the ground. But for the Romans this Lupercalia on the 14 and the Valentine’s Day on the 15th got blended into one day (on the 14th because I assume the young men and women couldn’t wait any longer to get together?) and occurred 7 weeks after the Winter Solstice, marking the progression from Winter into Spring. In the Middle Ages it was felt that birds chose their mates on February 14. So February 14th has been considered the official mating day for centuries.

Another theory about Valentine’s Day doesn’t begin with the Romans but with Norse. The Normans had a St. Galantin, which meant “lover of women.” Now the “G” is not pronounced like a “Gah” in the English language. It is pronounced like a “V” and so the word is like “Valantin” in sound. And so they believe that their St. Galantin’s Day is part of the confusion over St. Valentine’s Day today.

And yet the French want to say that the word Valentine comes from their word “galantine” which means a lover or gallant.

But the Roman Catholic Church did their best to try to ban this pagan fertility/mating festival. However, it remained popular in the hearts of the people and so they finally decided that it was hopeless to get rid of it. Thus they decided to redefine it as a Christian Saint Day of St. Valentine as I mentioned above. And so in 1660 Charles II officially restored Valentine’s Day into England’s society. And it is due to this that Great Britain is the country who is given credit for starting the printing of greeting cards, especially those expressing love, admiration, infatuation and other emotions.

St. Valentine’s Day did not come to America until 1629 with the Puritans and even here went against some of the church elders. But love prevails, whether openly or publiclly and the church could not hold back love and passion even in the New World. About 100 years passed before the first Valentine Cards appeared in the United States.

Margery Brews (England) wrote the oldest known valentine in letter form dated 1477, sent to John Paston. For Valentine once meant “sweetheart” it grew to represent “message of love.”

On 2-14-1667, Samuel Pepys in his diary described a kind of valentine that he got from his wife. It was a sheet of blue paper in which her name was written in gold letters. This became the forerunner of later valentines. But the custom didn’t grow quickly. It took 100 years before it was common to leave a valentine love letter at the doorstep of your sweetheart.

As I said above, although the Catholic church was not thrilled with Valentines per se, the custom slowly began to grow also in Catholic countries. Surprisingly, the Valentines were made by the nuns, appearing really lacy and decorated with hand-painted flowers with the center not cupid but often a saint or a sacred religious-styled heart.

Germany is credited with providing the expensive paper and elaborate borders to Valentines in the 18th century. But they were not given on Valentines, but more often on New Year’s Day or on a person’s birthday. So the fancy German paper was imported to England and they used it for Valentines. But this paper was expensive and soon the English began to make it themselves.

Valentines did not always appear as hearts as we know them today. Most were known as “paper pockets” and were more like envelopes and folded over. And mailing was expensive too. A folded and sealed with wax.

Cupid

So, how does Cupid, Hearts, Arrows, etc. all fit in?

Valentine Symbols

Cupid

Cupid is the Roman God of Love and the most popular symbol for Valentne’s Day. Originally he was shown as a young man with a bow and arrows. But over the years, Cupid went from a handsome man to a pugey baby? The reason is that the Romans had Cupid as the son of Venus (Goddess of Love and Beauty) and a symbol for passion, playful and tender love. His arrows were invisible and his victims (which could also include other Gods btw as well as humans) would not be aware that they were shot until they fell in love. But, the Victorian era want to help make Valentine’s Day more proper for women and children. So they tossed out this handsome Roman Adonis guy and made cupid more of a chubby baby. In other words, it’s all on how you want to spin the story from PG-rated to R-Rated!

The colors of Valentine’s Day are
Pink, Red and White for most cards and decorations, but is also on other Valentine commercial items like clothing, stuffed animals, candles, etc.

Red symbolizes warmth and feeling. It is associated with the color of the human heart.

White is a symbol of purity. (In some cases also of Faith and so it means the faith of the love two people have for each other.)

And so Pink (combination of Red + White) is then a symbol as I understand if of innocents or virginity in some cases.

Hearts and Arrows

A heart (red or pink) with an arrow piercing through it is the most common shape and look for a Valentines, and even candles, candies, cookies, cakes, figurines, stuffed images, etc. The heart is a symbol both of love and also vulnerability.
When you send someone a Valentine, you take a risk of being rejected and your feelings hurt. So a piercing arrow is a symbol of death and the vulnerability of love. On the other hand, the heart and arrow also symbolize the merging of the male and female as one.

In the 12th century, physicians believed that the heart was the seat of love and affection in the human body. But the actual biological shape of the human heart does not look like the heart as we see it today. Why? Well, some people are guessing (and it is funny!) that the Valentine heart-shape as we know it today was done by a doodler to represent the human female buttocks or a female torso with well-endowed breasts or the imprint of lips (wearing lipstick) made upon a piece of paper. Once again, it’s all on how you want to spin the story! 🙂

Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve?

This expression comes from early 1800’s where young American and British men wore slips of paper pinned to their sleeves with their girlfriend’s name written on. They did this for several days (why and when I have no clue) and so it started the expression “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.”

Today the American Heart Association in the US has a “Save a Sweet Heart” anti-smoking campaign during Valentine’s Week to help educate school kids against smoking.

Lovebirds

As I mentioned above, it was believed that birds chose their mates on February 14. And so the dove was chosen to be the bird representative because it was sacred to the Roman Goddess Venus because it chose a lifelong mate. They also make a cooing sound, which further proved they were the love couple. The dove was also a sacred bird to the Goddess, Venus (and other Love Deities). And Noah had considered the dove to be his messanger. In the Song of Solomon, the word “Turtle” is really referring to the “turtledove.” The turtledove is common in Asia and Europe, but it is not found in N. America at all. Since all doves are part of the pigeon family, they mate for life, and the male and female both share in the caring of their young. Their bcooing sounds are often considered “love sounds” and today it is often said that when people in love talk rather sugary and baby-like it is “cooing” with each other.

Dove superstitions are that they were magical and were often used to divine the future. The heart of a dove was often an ingredient in love potions. If you saw a white dove fly overhead it was suppose to be good luck. If you dreamt of a dove it was a sign that you had a promise of happiness. And, if you saw the first dove in Springtime, made a wish, that wish would come true (much like wishing upon a falling star.)

But during the years, love birds have changed from Doves to hummingbirds to birds of paradises. Today, love birds depcited on Valentines are tiny parrots brilliant in color because genetically they really are in the parrot family. They often act like young lovers also. How? They are known for living in pairs and keeping to themselves, much like young lovers want their privacy today. As pets they are considered loveable, easy to tame and respond to affection. Some can even be taught to speak.

The bad side of lovebirds is that they can carry a disease harmful to humans. And so, there are strict rules regarding importing them into the United States.

Valentine Cards

The custom of exchanging love notes goes back to the Roman Lupercalia festival with the names being drawn. But the British were the ones who popularized sending your feelings to someone via a printed card. The first Valentine card was created by Chrles, Duke of Orleans, imprisoned in the tower of London for several years following the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. he sent Valentine poems to his wife in France from his jail cell. Commercial Valentines didn’t apepar until 1800 (In England) and although handmade cards had been around for years. Inthe 19th century a new kind of Valentine emerged called “penny dreadfuls” that were insulting and cruel rather than loving and flattering. They were mostly sent anonymously too.

In America, hand-made Valentines appeared around 1740 and were sealed with red wax and left secretly on a lover’s doorstep (or sent in the mail). Commercial cards for the most part took over around 1880’s. But people still (and will always) make homemade ones too. Some included trinkets, some locks of hair and in some cases there were checks that were drawn against “The Bank of Love” and valentines printed to look like money. One was so realistic to a 5 pound note it was quickly recalled!

Valentine verses were romantic, whimsical and critical. As I mentioned above, postage was expensive. And during the English Victorian times the custom was that the recipient paid for the mail they got (not the sender as we do it today). So you can imagine what a double insult it was to pay for a Valentine only to open it up and discover it is critical aka “Vinegar Valentine.”

Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway were famous children’s book illustrators of their time. At the age of 22, Kate sold her first Valentine design for $15. Within weeks, over 25,000 copies were sold. For a few years after, she kept designing Valentines, but was never paid a penny more. Today, Kate Greenaway Valentine’s are considered collectable items, as well as those designed by Walter Crane.

When Valentine Cards got to America, they also got more creative. The first known to come to the US is a note written by John Winthrop in 1629 to his wife before leaving England for the New World. It ended with “My sweet wife, Thou must be my valentine for none hat challenged me.” He later became governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Valentines were not only done in delicate pen and ink, but also watercolor and the handwriting also became a thing of beauty for the card as well, as good penmanship was considered a form of art, as well as the quality of a person.

Acrostic Valentines – had verses in which the first letter of the lines spelled out the loved one’s name.
Example of the name Amanda.

A – Another moment without you is
M – more pain than I can bear.
A- And no other love will ever be
N – nearer to my heart than yours.
D – Days pass slowly until we shall meet
A -again and our lives forever share.

Cutout Valentines (which most children do in school today also) were simply made by folding paper several times and then cutting out small areas to make lacelike designs.

Pinprick Valentines were made by pricking tiny paper holes with a pin or needled into the paper into a lovely design.

Theorem or Poonah Valentines had designs that were painted through a stencil cut in oil paper (style originated in the Orient) with a coat of gum arabic to keep the paint from running.

Rebus Valentines had verses in which tiny pictures took the place of some of the words.

An example is:

Puzzle Valentines – Had a puzzle to read and refold, in which scattered among their many folds were verses that had to be read in a certain order. I remember making these in school in which they ended up like a pyramid in which you put your your index finger and thumb of both hands on both sides and moved the puzzle valentine North to South and East To West chanting some silly rhyme until you stopped and could chose a flap to open and read.

Fraktur Valentines – had ornamental lettering in the stle of illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

But, Valentines did not always come via paper and lace.
Many sailors would return from their voyages bringing silk scarves (or other items) to their wives or girlfriends that had designs of hearts, flowers and other romantic images or words. And, in return many of the wives or girlfriends of those sailors (before they took off to sea) made them stronger bundles decorated with loving images and thoughts (and filled with items) to take with them on their voyages to think of them.

And during the Civil War some of the Valentines were more like paper dolls that were actually dressed with cloth (or paper) to try to resemble the person sending it.

And during the Roaring Twenties, some valentines were actually shaped like tomatoes. At that time, tomatoes only grew in flower gardens and were considered “love apples.” (Kinda makes you wonder what they considered ketchup to be then!)

Roses

Flowers were considered love tokens before there even was a St. Valentines. The Roman God, Bacchus (God of Wine and Joy) and Venus (Goddes of Love and Beauty) both considered the beauty and fragrance of flowers to be tied with romance and love. But since the time of Solomon, the primary flower linked to romance was always the rose. Cleopatra of Egypt covered the floor with roses before receiving Mark Anthony.

A Roman myth is that Cupid was carrying a vase of sweet nectar to the gods on Mt. Olympus and spilled it on the ground. From that spot of spilled nectar, roses grew!

But if roses are so symbolic of romance and love, then why the thorns? Well, another story goes like this:
The soft west wind named Sephyr one day opened a lovely rose and Cupid bent over to kiss the elegant petals. When he did, he ws stung by an irate bee hiding inside. Venus got so angry she told Cupid to shoot some bees and string them up on one of his arrows. She then planted this string of dead bees on the rose stems, and the stings became the rose’s thorns and ever since roses had thorns.

The ancient Romans also believed that anything discussed under a rose (I mean how low can you go to talk?) was considered sub rosa and to be kept secret. Today the Latin term is still used today to express something that is to be kept confidential.

Another Roman theory is that the Rose reminded the Roman Catholic Church of watching Christians devoured by lions. Later on, the Virgin Mary was called “The Rose of Heaven.”

Daisies, Violets and Bachelor Buttons

There are a few other flowers considered to be romantic also.
The Romans believed that the daisy was once a wood nymph. One day, while dancing in a field she was seen by Vertumnus, the God of Spring (who fell in love with her of course). But when he reached for her she got frightened. So, out of pity the other gods let her sink into the earth and she became a daisy.

I do not know how the game of holding a daisy and plucking off it’s petals saying “He loves me” or “He loves me not” got started.

As far as Violets go….one day it is said that Venus got jealous of a group of beautiful maidens. And when Cpid refused to say that his mother’s beauty was better than theirs, Venus go furious, so she beat her rivals (these maidens) until they were blue and she watched them shrink into violets.

In the Science of Botany, the cornflower is known as Kyanus, named after a Greek youth who was born in a field one day, making garlands of the blue blossoms for the altar of Flora, Goddess of Flowers. He died, unfortnately, leaving some of the garlands undone and so this touched Flora’s heart and so in his honor she named the flowers after him.

Say It With Flowers…

This is most commonly known as FTD’s slogan today.
But what to say and with what flower?
Here are some traditional meanings for some other flowers often sent for Valentine’s Day or other touching moments:

Bleeding Heart = Hopeless, but not heartless.

Gardenia = I love you secretly.

Gladiolus = You pierce my heart.

Lily-of-the-Valley = Let us make up.

Rose – I love you passionately.

Sweet William = You are gallant, suave and perfect.

Violet = I return your love.

Green leaves represented hope in a love affair. (Often rumored to be the reason why British girls sprinkled bay leaves with rose water and put them on their pillows on Valentine’s Day Eve. They wanted to see their loved one in their dreams.)

Sweetheart, Sugar Pie, Honey etc.

When people are in love they just seem to automatically develop this type of dialogue. But why? We often refer to someone we care about as sweetheart or honey. Researchers have found that when we fall in love, a chemical called phenylethylamine or phenylalanine is produced. This drug is responsible for that erratic, psychotic love high that we all feel. When phenylethylamine or phenylalanine is flowing through our veins it’s as if we are on amphetamines. We can stay up all night and work all day the next day. And a pheromone called androstenol is also released, which heightens our sexual attractions. Thus, we also end up producing what is called a sweet taste in our mouths and we start spouting off phrases like “luscious” and “sweet” and “honey” and other things that we like such as “muffin” or “cupcake” or “pudding.”

However, there is nothing as bad as love gone wrong! And so then we suddenly start spouting off words that have to do with being disgusted, depressed, angry, bitter etc. These are like, “a sour taste in my mouth” or “foul mood” or even being a little “stinker.”

Apples

Historically, apples have been tokens of love and fertility. The Norse gods ate apples to stay young and scholars say that Hebrew women dran and washed with the sap of an apple for fertility. Apples have also been known for divining and fortune-telling since ancient times. So the phrase, “Mom, Country and Apple Pie” all refer to types of love….maternal, patriotism and sexual. But, apples are NOT really the original aphrodisiac at all. What is?

The Spaniards believed that the tomato (nightshade vegetation) to really be the true romance-inducing fruit and brought the seeds over to the US from South America. So “love apples” are not really apples at all, but tomatoes. And this is how we get the phrase, “She’s a really hot tomato!”

Chocolate

Believe it or not, chocolate contains the same chemical mentioned above called phenylethylamine or phenylaline that is produced in our brains when falling in love, and that gives the same emotional high related to amphetamines. Many psychologist feel that chocolate is an instant “love booster” and an automatic sweet taste in our mouths. And with some people, both chocolate and love can be addictive. Anyway, the idea of giving chocolate to someone we care about is a way to stir up the same emotions in them (only artificially if they don’t really feel the same way emotionally back) as well.

As with all drugs, the phenylethylamine will wear off if it’s not produced due to real emotions.

Some also say that “sweets for my sweet” is a pun for giving any candy to someone you care about.

Love Knots

It has no beginning and no end and consists of graceful loops (sometimes forming hearts) in which messages of love are either attached and knotted in (or written on the ribbon or rope) and read by turning the knot around and around. And, if you couldn’t make a real love knot, then many Valentines included a design of one. A young man often hung this love knot on his true love’s doorknob, slipping a letter under also. (Some feel this began with the sailors since many were skilled at making fishnets and so doing knots or macramé were their skill. Others say it is a celtic custom and design. While others say it is Scandinavian.)

Paper Hands

By the 19th Century another symbol of love became the paper hand.
It was considered a symbol of courtship because of the custom of a man “asking for a lady’s hand” in marriage. And eventually tiny paper gloves became a valentine card symbol as well….evolving into gloves (esp. silk) becoming a popular gift to for a man to give his sweetheart. Eventually, a woman sort of expected a pair of good gloves as a gift (in she was in certain social circles). Eventually (I guess it depended on how well you knew the woman?) a man would also give shoestrings, silk stockings, garters and jewelry to his sweetheart for Valentines.

Scrimshaw & Cameos

Now, back to those romantic sailors longing for their true loves while at sea….

Many sailors would scratch designs on tusk, bones, ivory or wood as a token of love. This is known as scrimshaw today. Long flat decorated scrimshaw were often meant as corest stiffeners known as busks and stays. Some carved messages into them. And it is also rumored that talented sailors would often carve images of their fair ladies on conch shells (known as cameos) because photos were not invented yet. Or….in some cases they carved images of themselves on conch shells to leave with their true loves to remember them by (had them mounted as pins). The male cameos are more rare than the female ones. In other cases, the men would carve pictures of Gods on the cameos or scrimshaw and give it to their loved one as an omelet of love and protection for them.

Here is a poem written from a sailor to his sweetheart when he sent her a carved scrimshaw whalebone busk.

Accept, dear girl, this busk from me
Carved by my humble hand.
I took it from a sperm whale’s jaw
One thousand miles from land.
In many a gale had been the whale
In which this bone did rest.
His time is past, but his bone at last
Must now support thy breast.

I find this the most phenomenally personal gift from a man to a women in that day. Today, if a man gave a woman say a Victoria’s Secret bra or lingerie, it would not be considered that intimate as in the Victorian times when a man literally carved the support bones for his woman’s corsets!

Valentine Lace

Expensive Valentines today have real lace, perhaps gold charms, real flowers (or dried) and even made with red velvet and not paper. For thousands of years, certain “pretty things” have often been associated with romance. In the days of olde, knights often rode into battle with his lady love’s scarf or ribbon tied somewhere on him. Lace, because of it’s delicate nature, has come to represent something lovely to look at and thus represent love (because lace really isn’t practical as far as a fabric.)

So lace as long as 400 years ago because a popular trimming for clothing…especially clothing associated with love = wedding dresses!

How lace paper got made was purely accidental. Joseph Addenbrooke in 1834 was working for a London paper when by accident a file brushed over a sheet of paper embossed with a raised design. The high points of this embossed design thus got filed off leaving small holes, and giving a lacey look to the paper.
This led into the business of making paper laces and soon others followed — competitively to the point where some of these paper laces are of museum quality today.

Valentine Phobias

Although most of us who are not in love, married or seeing someone, dread Valentine’s Day for it’s reminder of loneliness, we only face a slight sense of depression and nothing more. For some people with certain phobias, the following can be a problem for them:

Orintho-Apiphobia – Fear of the Birds and Bees

Ereuthophobia – Fear of Blushing

Obligaphobia – Fear of Commitment

Anlophobia – Fear of Flowers

Dorapophobia – Fear of Furs

Zelophobia – Fear of Jealousy

Amoraphobia – Fear of Love

Gamophobia – Fear of Marriage

Arotophobia – Fear of Physical Love

Hedonophobia – Fear of any kind of Pleasure
or Having Fun

Haphephobia – Fear of Touching or Being Touched

Gynophobia – Fear of Girls

Androphobia – Fear of Men

So what do these have to do with Valentine’s Day exactly? Well for some people, they really fear any kind of “potential” social interaction with the opposite sex, or what in their minds might be perceived as a potential. If a guy perhaps is afraid of being hugged by a female, he might dread Valentine’s Day for this? It might never happen, but he worries about “what if” all day long. The same can be true for a female. Or it might be that they fear their own reactions if they get a Valentine, such as blushing. So they don’t want one given to them publically.

For most of us, this sounds a bit extreme or crazy, but for those with certian phobias it’s a really serious situation.

However, let me briefly mention what the professionals did in the book regardling Valentine’s Day and love. We are now living in an era of AIDS and well, just for the sake of common sense, we need to ‘think’ before we really allow our emotions to run amuck, especially on a holidays that has it’s basis as fertility, mating and so on.

It’s fine to let someone know you like them or find them attractive. But stop and think about how you want to reciprocate any mutual feelings, OK?

Love Birds

It’s almost time to ring in 2012 and for most revelers nothing says New Year’s Eve like a bottle of bubbly and watching that iconic ball drop in Times Square. You’ve seen the New Year’s Eve ball drop year after year, but how much do…

via Ring in 2012: 12 Facts About the New Year’s Eve Ball.

The Real Meaning Of Christmas

ImageIt’s that time of year again. December has come and with it all the joys of Christmas. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets? Is this really Christmas?

For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don’t have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmastime when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons. Turkey dinners may be only a wish and not a reality for some.

Yet, Christmas can be a season of great joy. It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child.

Luke 2: 4-19 says:

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Why did He come? Why did God send His son to this sometimes cruel and hard world? He sent Jesus to us so that one day, He would grow up to become a very important part of history. His story (history) is one of truth, love, and hope. It brought salvation to all of us. Without Jesus, we would all die in our sins.

Jesus was born so one day the price could be paid for the things we have done that are wrong. The Bible says that all have sinned. We are all born with a sin nature. We do things that do not please God. Through the sins of Adam and Eve, we have all inherited that sin nature. We need to have that removed. The only way is through Jesus. Jesus came so He could die on the cross for ALL of our sins. If we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we can ask Him to come into our hearts and forgive us. Then, we are clean and made whole. We can know that heaven is a place where we can go to when this life is over.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” I John 1:9

We can truly be happy at Christmas! No matter what may be happening, we can know that we are His children. We then become sons and daughters of God. Heaven will be our home one day.

Look at Christmas in a new way this year. This is the year to invite Jesus into your heart. You will then have a “Merry Christmas.” The joy and peace you will receive will last all year as you look to God for all your needs to be met.

Jesus Is The Reason For The Season! Rejoice!

The Little Drummer Boy

Of all of the Christmas specials from when I was a child, this one has never left my mind. What a beautiful story about an event that has transformed the world.

Merry Christmas to all!

Adoration of the Magi

The story of the Three Wise Men of the East has been popular among Christians for many centuries. Also known as the Three Kings or the Three Magi, they have been depicted in countless works of art. However, only one of the 4 gospels in the Bible mentions the story.

The story

The original story can be found in Matthew 2. After Jesus was born, “behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem”. They had seen a star that they considered indicative of the birth of the King of the Jews and had come to Jerusalem to find the child. When king Herod heard of their search, he wanted to know more about this possible competitor. His priests and scribes told him that such a king was to be born in Bethlehem, according to Micah’s prophecy. Herod now sent for the three wise men and told them to go to Bethlehem and report their findings to him.

This Herod was in fact King Herod I, a.k.a. Herod the Great, tetrarch of Judea, who lived approx. from BC 73 to 4, and who governed the Judea region under Roman rule. He was not very popular among the Jewish population, mostly due to his attempts to enforce a Hellenistic culture. Traces of these attempts can be found in the ruins of Caesarea, the harbour city that Herod had built. Herod considered himself King of the Jews as well, although according to Jewish law he was not even Jewish.

The star guided the three men to Bethlehem where they discovered the child in the house the star stood over. The men offered the child their gifts: gold, incense and myrrh (a resin with a pleasant smell). This event is known as the Adoration of the Magi. That night, God told them in their dreams to ignore Herod’s orders. The next day the Magi departed, avoiding Jerusalem on their way home.

When Herod learned that the wise men had deceived him, he saw no other option than to have all Bethlehem children under the age of three murdered. Jesus and his parents had already escaped to Egypt: Joseph had been warned by an angel, also in a dream.

So the three kings not only brought gifts, but also helped to save the child. In addition to the mysterious guiding star the subject matter couldn’t fail but to inspire numerous painters.

The Bible does not mention the number of wise men, nor does it give their names or their colour: Balthasar, the black Caspar and Melchior. In the gospels of Mark, Luke and John, the wise men are not mentioned at all. In the Middle Ages, the number three was concluded from the number of the gifts. They were also given symbolic identities, representing all three biblical races, which meant that one of them had to be black.

The Old Testament considers Noah’s three sons — Shem, Ham en Japheth — as the ancestors of three nations: the Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic peoples. Ham had seen his drunken father naked and told his brothers; Noah cursed him for that. He is supposed to be the ancestor of the Canaanites and the African peoples. So a descendant of Ham could be black.

Epiphany (“the appearance”) still is a Christian holiday, celebrated on 6 January. It not only celebrates the visit of the three wise men, but generally the Revelation of God to Man in the person of Jesus.

The word magus, the singular form of magi, is probably derived from an ancient Persian word for priest.

The three wise men in art

A glance at the many paintings with The Three Magi as subject matter reveals them all showing the three kings in adoration before the Child and Mary. Joseph is not always shown, and neither are the ox and the ass. What varies most is the number of figures: paintings tend to get more baroque as the number of figures increases. There is much variation in background matter, which can be any sort of shelter, ranging from a cave, a stable or an inn, to a house.

This site features circa twentyfive versions of Adoration of the Magi.

CHRISTMAS JAM 2011

 

Every Wonder Where Santa Came From?

Santa Claus:
Where Did That Guy in the Red Suit Come From?
The origin of Santa Claus depends on which country’s story you choose to adopt. Santa Claus comes from the Dutch words “Sinter Klaas”, which is what they call their favorite saint, St. Nicholas. He is said to have died on December 6, A.D. 342. December 6th is celebrated as his feast day, and in many countries this is the day he arrives with his presents and punishments.

Nicholas lived in what is now called Turkey. He was born about A.D. 280 in the town of Patras. His parents were wealthy and he was well educated. Nicholas seems to have had a remarkable childhood. While still a young boy he was made Bishop of Myra, and because of this he has been known ever since as the Boy Bishop. He was renowned for his extreme kindness and generosity – often going out at night and taking presents to the needy. Santa’s rise to fame can be traced to two legends – the three daughters and the children at the Inn.
The Three Daughters

The first story shows his generosity. There were three unmarried girls living in Patras who came from a respectable family, but they could not get married because their father had lost all his money and had no dowries for the girls. The only thing the father thought he could do was to sell them when they reached the age to marry. Hearing of the imminent fate, Nicholas secretly delivered a bag of gold to the eldest daughter, who was at the right age for marriage but had despaired of ever finding a suitor. Her family was thrilled at her good fortune and she went on to become happily married. When the next daughter came of age, Nicholas also delivered gold to her.

According to the story handed down, Nicholas threw the bag through the window and it landed in the daughter’s stocking, which she had hung by the fire to dry. Another version claims that Nicholas dropped the bag of gold down the chimney.

By the time the youngest daughter was old enough for marriage, the father was determined to discover his daughters’ benefactor. He, quite naturally, thought that she might be given a bag of gold too, so he decided to keep watch all night. Nicholas, true to form, arrived and was seized, and his identity and generosity were made known to all. As similar stories of the bishop’s generosity spread, anyone who received an unexpected gift thanked St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas and Children

Another one of the many stories told about St. Nicholas explains why he was made a patron saint of children. On a journey to Nicaea, he stopped on the way for the night at an inn. During the night he dreamt that a terrible crime had been committed in
the building. His dream was quite horrifying. In it three young sons of a wealthy Asian, on their way to study in Athens, had been murdered and robbed by the innkeeper. The next morning he confronted the innkeeper and forced him to confess. Apparently the innkeeper had previously murdered other guests and salted them down for pork or had dismembered their bodies and pickled them in casks of brine. The three boys were still in their casks, and Nicholas made the sign of the cross over them and they were restored to life.
Where did religion come in? …

In newly Christianized areas where the pagan Celtic and Germanic cults remained strong, legends of the god Wodan were blended with those of various Christian saints; Saint Nicholas was one of these. There were Christian areas where Saint Nicholas ruled alone; in other locations, he was assisted by the pagan Dark Helper (the slave he had inherited from the Germanic god Wodan). In other remote areas, where the Church held little power, ancient pockets of the Olde Religion controlled traditions. Here the Dark Helper ruled alone, sometimes in a most confusing manner, using the cover name of Saint Nicholas or “Klaus,” without in any way changing his threatening, Herne/Pan, fur-clad appearance. (This was the figure later used by the artist Nast as the model for the early American Santa Claus.)

The Catholic Saint Nicholas also had a confusing past. He was a compilation of two separate saints (one from Myra in Asia Minor, the other from Pinora), both of whom were – as the Church now admits – nothing more than Christianized water deities (possibly related to the Greco-Roman god Poseidon/Neptune.)

After the Vikings raided the Mediterranean, they brought the Christian Saint Nicholas cult from Italy to northern Europe, and there proceeded to build Saint Nicholas churches for the protection of their sailors. When, for instance, William the Conqueror’s fleet was hit by a storm during his invasion of England, he is known to have called out for protection to Saint Nicholas. Although in those days, church services only mentioned Saint Nicholas as the protector of seafarers, they initially condoned a blending of the Mediterranean Nicholas myths with some that had been attached to the pagan Germanic god Wodan and to those of the even earlier Herne/Pan traditions.

By absorbing such pagan feasts and traditions, the Christian Church could subtly bring in its own theology: in this case, establishing the good Saint Nicholas, bringer of love and gifts, while grudgingly allowing the presence of the Olde Religion’s Herne/Pan, but only as a slave to Saint Nicholas. Thus, in parts of Europe, the Church turned Herne into Saint Nicholas’ captive, chained Dark Helper; none other than Satan, the Dark One, symbolic of all evil. His only remaining tasks now were to carry the bag, scare maidens and children into devout behavior, and drag sinners and pagans off to the Christian hell. Yet, in spite of this character assassination, the poor masses continued to see in this enslaved Dark Helper a reflection of their own enslavement. He remained their Herne, thumbing his nose at the Christian Church; a mischievous, nostalgic reminder of the days of their own free and lusty pagan past.

In Holland and several other European countries, the Saint Nicholas figure is still highly esteemed. He appears as a tall dignified bearded white-haired old man dressed as a Catholic bishop complete with cloak, mytre, and pastoral staff, a seemingly genuine Catholic saint, but with a bizarre quite unsaintly habit of riding through the skies on a white horse followed by his Dark Helper. It seems that our Catholic saint inherited some of these customs from the pagan Germanic god Wodan, who had also been a bearded, white-haired old man, also dressed in a hat and cloak, carried a staff (or spear), rode a holy white horse and dragged along the same dark slave/helper on a chain.

The Dutch Sinterklaas brings gifts to good children, while bad children are harassed by Zwarte Piet, the Dark Helper, who – brandishing his peculiar broom-like rod – threatens to put sassy young women and naughty children in the sack in which he has carried the gifts, the idea being that he will take them away to some terrible place in Spain (where Saint Nicholas, for no known historical reason, was supposed to have come from). This, of course, never happens since the good Christian Sinterklaas always intervenes on behalf of the naughty child – provided the child promises to better his or her ways. The bad (pagan) Dark Helper is then admonished by Sinterklaas and ordered to stop threatening the children.

Next, Sinterklaas distributes gifts to all “who have been good” (or until the twentieth century, to all “who knew their prayers”). In exchange, the children are supposed to leave food offerings for the saint’s horse (usually hay and carrots), placed in either a shoe or stocking. In some areas, a glass of gin is also left as an offering for the good saint himself. When, by daybreak, the offerings have disappeared and been replaced by gifts, it proves that Sinterklaas has indeed paid a visit during the night.

We can clearly recognize in all this the lesson taught the pagans by the Christian Church, here represented by Saint Nicholas: You may enjoy your old fall/winter feasts, as long as you have learned your prayers and become good Christians. You will then be rewarded, but if you have not done so, you will be dragged away to hell by your own fearful, pagan past and its representative, the dark Herne/Pan – who is none other than Satan himself – unless you repent, here and now!
St. Nicholas with a European Flair …

Nicholas’ natural affinity with children led him to be adopted as their patron saint, and his generosity to the custom of giving gifts to them on his feast day. The custom became especially widespread in the Low Countries, where the Dutch seamen had carried reports home of the saint’s generosity. St. Nicholas was, however, a tremendously popular saint everywhere. Both Russia and Greece adopted him as their patron saint, and there are more churches in the world named after him than any of the apostles (especially The Netherlands).

In the European countries, St. Nicholas is usually pictured as a bearded saint, wearing ecclesiastical robes and riding a white horse. He carries a basket of gifts for the good children and a batch of rods for the naughty ones.

In old Czechoslovakia, Svaty Mikulas was brought down from heaven on a golden cord by an angel. When he arrived on Christmas Day, the children rushed to the table to say their prayers. If they did well, he told the angel who came with him to give them presents.

In parts of the Alps, “ghosts of the field” cleared the way for St. Nicholas. Behind them came a man wearing a goat’s head, and a masked demon with a birch switch. In Germany, twelve young men dressed in straw and wearing animal masks danced along after St. Nicholas, ringing cowbells. At each house, after gifts were given, the masked men drove the young people out and pretended to beat them!

For the children of the Netherlands, December 6th is still more exciting than Christmas Day, for then St. Nicholas arrives. His arrival is celebrated and this is the day when children receive their presents. The excitement begins on the last Sunday in November, where everywhere can be heard the words, “Look there is the steamer bringing us St. Nick!”

St. Nicholas traditionally arrives by sea and disembarks at Amsterdam. He then mounts a white horse for a processional ride through the streets. Clothed in a bishop’s scarlet cope and mitre, he wears white gloves and an enormous bishop’s ring on his left hand. Black Peter accompanies Nicholas. St. Nicholas’ arrival is greeted with cheers from the thousands of children and adults who line the route. Supposedly the bishop came from Spain. This story can be traced back to the sixteenth century when the Spanish dominated the Low Countries. The doublet, puffed velvet breeches, hose and plumed berets worn by his attendants – in particular Black Peter – are another forcible reminder of that period. Black Peter carries a large sack in which he is said to put all the boys and girls who have misbehaved during the course of the last 12 months. With bad kids in his sack, Black Peter then takes them away to Spain.

Immigrants to the New World must have recognized something familiar in the little figure of St. Nick. His fur costume suggested Pelz-Nicol to a Bavarian, and the little gnome-like figure Jule-nissen to a Scandinavian. His elfish qualities rang bells with other nationalities too, for example the Irish with their tradition of the “little people”. In many ways, Santa was recognizable for many people, which probably helps to explain why he was adopted so readily – a new, but familiar, symbol for a new country.
Gift-Giving Comes of Age

As in many other European countries, if presents were exchanged at this season, it was usually done at New Year’s Eve and they were between adults rather than for children. In the 1840s, however, there was an increasing emphasis on Christmas Day. This seems to have happened for several reasons. The press – which now reached a far wider audience – stressed the fact that Christmas Day was the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Birthdays had always been a day for giving presents and it was a natural step to celebrate Jesus’ birth by giving gifts on that day.

Before Christmas had been banned by Oliver Cromwell from 1644 to 1660, there had been an old custom of giving sweets and small presents to children on Christmas Day. This had virtually stopped, but now the custom was enjoying a revival, in part because of the many articles that were being written in the Christmas editions of magazines about the “old traditions” of Christmas. Another influential element was that, just as in America, children were becoming a greater focus in society, and it seemed appropriate to use this time to give them greater emphasis.

The importation of the Christmas tree from Germany, and the accompanying rituals of gift giving on Christmas Eve, gave further impetus to the idea of presents. Santa Claus provided the final influence. By the end of the century, Christmas Day was firmly fixed – in England at least – as a children’s festival and the day on which presents were given.

Santa Claus, or “Father Christmas”, came back into English Christmas festivities when people were reminded of him from America. This injected new life into the English Christmas and was the answer to those who prayed that Father Christmas and his customs may be restored “to some portion of their ancient honours”.

Celebrations around the midwinter solstice had been used for gift giving since Roman times. At the Roman winter festival – called the Saturnalia because they worshipped Saturn as the god of everything that grew – the Romans had a public holiday that lasted for a week. Everyone took part in the feasting and games. Even the slaves were made free for a day and allowed to say and do what they liked. People exchanged presents; a custom called Strenae, as a symbol of goodwill. At first, these gifts were green boughs from the grove of the goddess Strenia. Later, gifts were given of sweet pastries to ensure a pleasant year, precious stones, gold or silver coins to symbolize wealth, and, the most popular of all, candles as a symbol of warmth and light. As the Roman Empire spread, so did this custom of gift giving to other parts of the world. Since the Saturnalia marked the beginning of a new year, in most countries presents were given on New Year’s Day, not Christmas Day. The advent and spread of Christianity caused the gift giving to be moved to other times of the year.

In Germany, the packages of Christmas gifts were called “Christ-bundles” and often came in bundles of three. There was something rewarding, something useful and something for discipline. In the seventeenth century, a typical bundle would contain candy, sugarplums, cakes, apples, nuts, dolls and toys. The useful things would be clothes, caps, mittens, stockings, shoes and slippers. The gifts “that belong to teaching, obedience and discipline” were items such as ABC tables, paper, pencils, books and the “Christ-rod”. This rod, attached to the bundle, was a pointed reminder for good behavior. Another way of presenting gifts was the old German custom of the “Christmas ship”, in which bundles for children were stored away. To some extent, this custom was also adopted in England, but never with the same degree of popularity.

In the centuries before Santa Claus was well known, and still today in many countries where he has not been widely adopted, the child Jesus is the gift-bringer. He comes with the angels during the night, trimming the tree and putting the presents underneath.

In Spain and Spanish-speaking countries, the child Jesus (el Nino Jesus) brings Christmas gifts for the children during Holy Night. He is found in the morning in the previously empty crib, and all the presents are arranged in front of it.

The German name of the Christ Child is Christkind, commonly used in its diminutive form Christkindel. His messenger, a young girl with a golden crown who holds a tiny “Tree of Light”, brings the gifts of the Christ Child. Still today in America, “Kriss Kringle” – deriving from the German Christkindel – is another name used for Santa Claus.

Santa may appear under different names and in different guises. For example, French children leave their shoes by the fireplace on Christmas Eve so that they can be filled with gifts by Pere Noel. In the morning they find that the shoes have been filled and that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have also been hung on the branches of the tree.

In Sweden, the children wait eagerly for Jultomten, whose sleigh is drawn by the Julbocker, the goats of the thunder god Thor. With his red suit and cap, and a bulging sack on his back, he looks much like Santa Claus as we know him. In Denmark, too, the gift-bringer Julemanden carries a sack and is brought by reindeer. Elves known as Juul Nisse come from the attic, where they live, to help with the chores during Yuletide. The children put a saucer of milk or rice pudding for them in the attic and are delighted to find it empty in the morning.

The children of Poland receive their gifts from the stars, while in Hungary the angels bring them. Children of Syria receive theirs from the Youngest Camel on January 6th, which is Three Kings’ Day. The children of Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and South American countries also receive gifts at this time as well as on Holy Night, but from the Three Kings.

In Italy, an unusual figure is the gift bringer for children. It is the “Lady Befana” or “Bufana” (La Befana}, the ageless wanderer. Apparently La Befana refused to go to Bethlehem with the wise men when they passed her door, and she has been searching for the Christ Child ever since. On the Eve of Three Kings’ Day (Epiphany), she wanders from house to house, peering into the faces of the children and leaving gifts. On that day, the children roam the streets, blowing their paper trumpets and receiving the gifts which La Befana has given them. Her name comes from the word “Epiphany”.

In Russia, Kolyada is the name for Christmas. The word is derived from the old Roman Kalends, the celebration of the New Year at the first of January. Kolyada is also the name of the white-robed woman who rides a sled drawn by a single white horse from house to house on Christmas Eve to bring gifts to the children. Kolya (Nicholas), who leaves wheat cakes on the windowsills, joins her. The gift bringer in Russia is also a legendary woman, called Babushka (Grandmother). She is said to have misdirected the Magi when they inquired their way to Bethlehem. According to another version, she refused hospitality to the Holy Family on its way to Egypt. Whatever her fault, she repented of her unkindness and, to make reparation for her sin, she now goes about the world on Christmas Eve looking for the Christ Child and distributing gifts to the children.
Santa Invades New York

In Europe, after the Reformation of the seventeenth century, the feast and veneration of Saint Nicholas was abolished in many places, including England, where a figure known as Father Christmas was substituted. Father Christmas is a winter deity, white-haired and bearded, who wears a crown of holly. The German settlers brought their beliefs and stories about Saint Nicholas with them to this country during the two great waves of immigration, in the early 1700s and the middle 1800s, and Hollanders brought their Sinter Klaas to their settlement of New Amsterdam. As the English colonized New York, they adopted their Father Christmas, who did not bring gifts, to these traditions, and Santa Claus as we know him today was born.

Washington Irving first described Santa’s sleigh flying. The sleigh was said to be pulled by reindeer – giving St. Nick an exotic link with the far north – a land of cold and snow where few, if any, people traveled and was hence mysterious and remote. The reindeer, however, were not first told by Irving. In a publication called The Children’s Friend, a writer had described in 1821 “Old Sante Claus with much delight, His reindeer drives this frosty night”. Washington Irving, in A History of New York, published in 1809, helped create the Americanized version of this mythic figure when he described the saint as “laying a finger beside his nose” and dropping gifts down chimneys.

Clement Moore’s “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” (popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas”} was published on December 23, 1823. Clement C. Moore told of eight reindeer and gave their names. Some scholars think that this poem was actually written by Henry Livingston, Jr., and there is compelling evidence to support this point of view. Perhaps Livingston had written a poem that Moore adapted. Whatever the case, in the now-famous poem, Santa is described as a “jolly old elf,” with a team of eight reindeer, who comes to children on Christmas Eve Day, rather than December 6 or New Year’s Day. One story recounts that Dr. Clement Moore was inspired to draw the present day Santa Claus by a short, chubby Dutch friend of his, who had sat by the fire telling stories of St. Nicholas.

Thomas Nast is another contributor to the American development of Santa Claus. Although he was born in Bavaria in the 1840s, he came to the United States when he was six years old. He grew up to become an editorial cartoonist and illustrator with flair; he is credited with creating and popularizing the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, the symbols of the two major political parties. He is also considered the primary source for the way we picture Santa Claus because of a series of drawings he did for Harper’s Weekly between 1863 and 1886. Not having the vaguest idea what Santa Claus was supposed to look like, the Bavarian-born Nast drew Santa Claus as the winter holiday figure he remembered from the mountain villages in his Bavarian Alps; a rather scary, less-than-friendly gnome, dressed in animal skins and carrying a short broom-like rod with which to threaten girls and boys.

Over the years, Nast’s Santa became a bit friendlier, until, in 1931, the Coca-Cola Company decided that they wanted to increase their sales to children. The law at the time did not allow advertisements showing children drinking Coca-Cola, so how about showing a friendlier Santa Claus, relaxing with a Coke served to him by children? The artist Haddon Sundblom was assigned to come up with a new, more commercial Santa. Instead of Moore’s elf or Nast’s grumpy gnome, Sundblom came up with a large, jolly fellow in the well-known, bright red suit with white fur trim (the Coca-Cola colors).

Together, Irving, Moore, Nast and Sundblom are largely responsible for the way we in America envision Santa Claus.

Day's of Yore