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History of the Twelve Days of Christmas

December 25, 2005 /
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12days 706475THE HISTORY OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” are the dozen days in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church between the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child (Christmas, December 25) and the coming of the Magi to visit at his house in Bethlehem (Epiphany, January 6). The Eastern Church celebrates during Epiphany rather than Christmas Day. In Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings.

Question: Aren’t the twelve days of Christmas the days before Christmas, when you shop for presents?

Answer: No, the four week season before Christmas is called Advent, meaning the coming of Christ. The dozen days following Christmas are the twelve days of Christmas, sometimes known as Twelfth Night. The Twelfth Night is the holiday which marks the twelfth night of the Christmas Season, the eve of Epiphany. During the Tudor period in England, the Lord of Misrule would run the festivities of Christmas, ending on this Twelfth Night. Shakespeare’s play by the same name was intended to be performed as a Twelfth Night entertainment and was first performed during this time in 1602.

This festival was particularly popular during the Middle Ages especially in England, where some of the traditions were adapted from older pagan customs. Modern Neopaganism celebrates this time. This period is also called Yule or Yuletide, which while it serves as an archaic term for Christmas, harkens back to earlier German and Norse traditions.

Question: But wasn’t this song used as a memory aid for catechism by Catholics in England during the period 1558 until 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholicism there, who were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law – private OR public — where each gift is a hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith?

Answer: This is unlikely for several reasons:

At first glance, there is nothing in this song that is uniquely Catholic in belief as compared to Protestant catechism. Any of the items in it could be embraced by Catholic and Protestant alike. While Queen Elizabeth I’s “Act of Uniformity” truly did abolished the “old worship,” and the open practice of Catholicism was forbidden by law until Parliament passed the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, nothing in this song would have been taken as particularly Catholic or offensive to Anglican sensibilities. Indeed, during the highly Puritan time of the Commonwealth between 1649 and 1660 under the Cromwell government, Christmas was not celebrated in England until the time of Charles I and the restoration of the English monarchy.

Secondly, while there are differences between Anglican (Protestant) and Catholic belief, none of those show up in the “hidden meaning” of the song, with the possible exception of the number of sacraments.

However, it may be possible that this song has been confused with another song called “A New Dial” (also known as “In Those Twelve Days”), which dates to at least 1625 and assigns religious meanings to each of the twelve days of Christmas though not for the purposes of teaching a catechism. During those days there was a custom of singing songs called a “memory-and-forfeits performance” in which people added verses to a song cumulatively until the loser of the game forgot the first verses.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
https://www.billpetro.com/

History of Chanukah

December 23, 2005 /
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menorah 718388HISTORY OF CHANUKAH

Also spelled hanukkah, means “dedication”. This Jewish holiday traces its roots back more than 2,000 years. At that time the Jewish people were living under the oppressive government of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV, (a rather ironic name) who was a descendant of Seleucus, the general of Alexander the Great. During his rule he forbade the reading of the Scriptures, circumcision, Sabbath observance, and a number of other religious practices. In order to further promote the “hellenization” of Palestine, he set up in the Temple of Jerusalem an altar dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter where swine were offered in sacrifice. This “Abomination of Desolation” caused the Jews to rebel in what became known as the Maccabean Revolt, and under the leadership of Judas Maccabee (“the hammer”) the Syrians were overthrown, and the Temple had all signs of paganism removed. The statue to Jupiter was ground to dust. A feast was instituted on 25 Kislew, 165 B.C. for the purification of the Temple. The story goes that light of the Temple was relit with only enough pure oil to last one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days, until more could be found. The “Festival of Lights” is celebrated for eight days.

One of the most important Chanukah customs is to light colorful candles in a menorah or candelabrum with eight branches, one for each night of Chanukah and one prominent one that holds the candle to be used to light the others. On the first night, one candle is lit and each succeeding night another is added so that all eight are alight on the last night. Because the Chanukah story involved oil, foods fried in oil are traditional for the holiday. Potato pancakes appear to have come to us from Russia. There the Jews made “latkes” or pancakes from a great variety of ingredients, from cheese to buckwheat flour to noodles. Legend says that women behind the lines, during the Jews’ fight against the Syrians 2,000 years ago, made flat cakes for the warriors because they could be prepared quickly.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

History of Augustus

December 22, 2005 /
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augustus 736431HISTORY OF CAESAR AUGUSTUS

Perhaps it is fitting that our last article on the History behind Christmas should be about the first person mentioned in St. Luke’s story of the first Christmas. He was neither Palestinian, nor Jew, nor shepherd, nor wise man. He was in fact, 1500 miles away, the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Were it not for his decision, Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem, but in Nazareth, the home of Mary (and this would have messed up all the Old Testament prophesies). But because of Augustus’ decree Mary and Joseph, descendants of the often married King David, returned to Bethlehem, the city of David. It was here that Mary’s first born child was born, according to Luke, in a manger as there was no room at the inn. Certainly they had not called ahead, and there were a lot of travelers at the time, it being the Christmas season and all.

Some sixty years earlier, the Roman general Pompey had conquered Palestine and was at this time a “client kingdom” ruled by a local king, Herod the Great, who was directly responsible to the Roman emperor. Augustus himself, grand nephew and adopted heir to Julius Caesar, in addition to being emperor was a religious reformer, for he tried to revive the drooping interest in Rome’s state religion. By his day, the average Roman had abandoned his beliefs in the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon and philosophical skepticism was growing, while the more credulous joined the foreign eastern mystery cults. Feeling that this neglect of the gods was demoralizing Roman society, he set about his religious revival with enthusiasm bestowing temples and shrines on the Empire, restoring eighty-two temples in the city of Rome alone. He became “pontifex maximus” (highest priest) in the state cult and tried to spark a moral renewal in society.

Many Roman men and women of the time were indulging in a very easy morality to escape what they called “the tedium of marriage”, and soon marital and birth rates had dwindled alarmingly. One day, August was disturbed enough to stalk into the Forum and devise a crude test of the situation: he told a crowd of men gathered there to separate into two groups, the bachelors on one side, the married men on the other. Seeing the handful of husbands he said:

What shall I call you? Men? But you aren’t fulfilling the duties of men. Citizens? But for all your efforts, the city is perishing. Romans? But you are in the process of blotting out this name altogether! … What humanity would be left if all the rest of mankind should do what you are doing? … You are committing murder in not fathering in the first place those who ought to be your descendants!

… and on to other such gems of imperial logic.

Augustus followed this with legislation designed to reverse the tide by making promiscuity a crime, while conferring political advantages on a father of three children. Bachelors who shirked “the duty of marriage” were penalized in their right to inherit, and they could not even secure good seats at the games! Bachelors trying to circumvent such penalties by “marrying” infant girls were quickly countered by setting the minimum age for engagement at ten for girls, with a two-year upper limit for the length of engagement.

Acts of Augustus 768141Perhaps it was to gauge his success in raising the marriage and birth rates that Augustus was so concerned about the imperial census, for he took several, as in the Christmas story, during his lengthy reign. Such enrollments, of course, were also the basis for the Roman system of taxation, but the Emperor was pleased enough with the results that he proudly mentioned his censuses in eight place among the thirty-five “Acts of Augustus” for which he wished to be remembered, items that were later engraved on two bronze plaques outside his mausoleum. A subscription for the “Acts of Augustus” also appears at the Temple of Augustus in Ankara, Turkey, pictured here.

Some scholars have doubted that imperial Rome would require her subjects to return to their original homes for such enrollments. But this requirement has been supported by the discovery of a Roman census edict from 104 A.D in neighboring Egypt.

“Gaius Vibius Maximus, prefect of Egypt, says: The house-to-house census having been started, it is essential that all persons who for any reason whatsoever are absent from their homes be summoned to return to their own hearths, in order that they may perform the customary business of registration…”

Had Augustus ever seen these three names on the census returns from Bethlehem?

Joseph Ben-Iacob, carpenter
Mary Bath-Ioachim, his wife
Yeshua or Jesus, first-born son

It is very unlikely, and certainly he never learned the significance of what happened in Bethlehem because of his decision to take the census. And at the time of Augustus’ death in 14 A.D. Jesus was about 19 years old, an apprentice carpenter in Nazareth, and the Emperor still could not possibly have heard of him. Augustus would have been astounded to know that later ages would assign his own death to the year 14 A.D. (“in the year of the Lord”) rather than the Roman date, 767 A.U.C. (ab urbe condita, “from the founding of the city”) all because of this unknown subject, born in Bethlehem. And as the years went by this “King of the Jews” would lead a kingdom far more vast than Augustus ever knew.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

from Paul L. Maier’s In the Fullness of Time

History of A Christmas Carol

December 21, 2005 /
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christmascarol logo 701783HISTORY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL

This week in 1843 saw the publication of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” No other book or story by Dickens or anyone else (save the Bible) has been more enjoyed, criticized, referred to, or more frequently adapted to other media. None of his other works is more widely recognized or, indeed, celebrated within the English-speaking world. Some scholars have even claimed that in publishing A Christmas Carol Dickens single-handedly invented the modern form of the Christmas holiday in England and the United States.

Indeed, the great British thinker G.K. Chesterton noted long ago, with A Christmas Carol Dickens succeeded in transforming Christmas from a sacred festival into a family feast. In so doing, he brought the holiday inside the home and thus made it accessible to ordinary people, who were now able to participate directly in the celebration rather than merely witnessing its performance in church.

original carol marley 758926Many of our American conceptions of what a “traditional” Christmas is, comes from this time in Victorian history. Indeed, Queen Victoria of England had just married a few years earlier, and her German husband, Prince Albert brought some of his native customs to England (including the Christmas tree), beginning some of the traditions of Victorian Christmas.

In the mid-seventeenth century, the Cromwellian Revolt abolished Christmas as well as the monarchy. However well the monarchy was subsequently “restored,” the traditions of the winter holiday never recovered. But religious prescription was not the only cause of the decline of Christmas. Even by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution, especially in the north, was changing the communities that still tenuously kept the customs of their ancestors.

original carol fezziwig 731323By the time the Carol was written in 1843, the lavish celebrations of the past were a distant, quaint memory. Some still remembered them, and even before the Carol a few popular books attempted to record the celebrations of the past, such as The Book of Christmas by T.H. Hervey (1837) and The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall by Washington Irving (1820). But social forces beyond simple nostalgia were at work, rekindling the need for winter celebrations.

Dickens was one of the first to show his readers a new way of celebrating the old holiday in their modern lives. His Christmas celebrations of the Carol adapted the twelve-day manorial (Yule) feast to a one-day party any family could hold in their own urban home. Instead of gathering together an entire village, Dickens showed his readers the celebration of Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, with his immediate family and close friends, and also the Cratchits’ “nuclear family”: perfectly happy alone, without the presence of friends or wider family. He showed the urban, industrial English that they could still celebrate Christmas, even though the old manorial twelve-day celebrations were out of their reach. Dickens’s version of the holiday evoked the childhood memories of people who had moved to the cities as adults.

original carol ghost present 798636The Cratchit family, although quaint and sentimental to modern readers, was a familiar portrait of the lower-middle class families who originally read the Carol, familiar in fact to Dickens himself, who modeled the Cratchits’ lifestyle on his own childhood experience of when he himself lived in Camden Town. (Dickens’ own father was in and out of Debtors’ Prison.) Dickens demonstrates that even in poverty, the winter holiday can inspire good will and generosity toward one’s neighbors. He shows that the spirit of Christmas was not lost in the race to industrialize, but can live on in our modern world.

The publishing of his book was immensely popular, though in a time ofgreat religious controversy, and its lack of babes, wise men, stars,mangers, and other icons of the Christian nativity inspired a multitudeof sermons and pamphlets at that time. Although A Christmas Carol is generally associated with the Christian winter holiday season, for it does contain references to the Christian Jesus; its themes are not exclusive to Christianity and it inspired a tradition for decades in Christmas books and celebrations that appealed to many non-Christians.

His preface to the book reads:

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D., December, 1843.

But the punch line to the book, is the very last sentence, which rarely fails to bring a tear to this historian:

It was always said of Scrooge, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed,
God Bless Us, Every One!

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

excerpts from Prof. Gerhard Rempel, Lectures in Western Civilization

History of the Star

December 20, 2005 /
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christmas starChristmas Star 756566HISTORY OF THE STAR

The star of Bethlehem has puzzled scholars for centuries. Some have skeptically dismissed the phenomenon as a myth, a mere literary device to call attention to the importance of the Nativity. Others have argued that the star was miraculously placed there to guide the Magi and is therefore beyond all natural explanation. Most authorities, however, take a middle course which looks for some historical explanation for the Christmas star, and several interesting theories have been offered.

The Greek term for star in the Gospel account, “aster”, can mean any luminous heavenly body, including a comet, meteor, nova, or planet (wandering star). The Chinese have more exact and more complete astronomical records than the Near East, particularly in their tabulations of comets and novae. In 1871, John Williams published his authoritative list of comets derived from Chinese annuals. Comet No. 52 on the Williams list appeared for some seventy days in March-April of 5 B.C. near the constellation Capricorn, and would have been visible in both the Far and Near East. As each night wore on, of course, the comet would seem to have moved westward across the southern sky. The time is also very appropriate. This could indeed have been the wise men’s astral marker. Comet No. 53 on the Williams list is a tailless comet, which could well have been a nova, as Williams admitted. No. 53 appeared in March-April of 4 B.C.-a year after its predecessor – in the area of the constellation Aquila, which was also visible all over the East. Was this, perhaps the star that reappeared to the Magi once Herod had directed them to Bethlehem in Matthew 2:9? Comets do not display all the characteristics described in the full Nativity story. A planet or planets seems more likely.

The astronomer Johannes Kepler noted in the early 17th century that every 805 years, the planets Jupiter and Saturn come into extraordinary repeated conjunction, with Mars joining the configuration a year later. Since Kepler, astronomers have computed that for ten months in 7 B.C., Jupiter and Saturn traveled very close to each other in the night sky, and in May, September, and December of that year, they were conjoined. Mars joined the configuration in February of 6 B.C. The astrological interpretation of such a conjunction would have told the Magi much, if, as seems probable, they shared the astrological lore of the area. Jupiter and Saturn met each other in Pisces, the Fishes.

In ancient astrology, the giant planet Jupiter was styled the “King’s Planet”, for it represented the highest god and ruler of the universe: Marduk to the Babylonians; Zeus to the Greeks; Jupiter to the Romans. The ringed planet Saturn was deemed the shield or defender of Palestine, while the constellation of Pisces, which was also associated with Syria and Palestine, represented epochal events and crises. So Jupiter encountering Saturn in the sign of the Fishes would have meant that a divine and cosmic ruler was to appear in Palestine at a culmination of history.

Meanwhile, new research on the star based on recently available astronomy software and historical research on Josephus’ manuscripts is being conducted and collected at www.bethlehemstar.net.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

Inspired by Paul L. Maier’s In the Fullness of Time

Science of the Solstice

December 19, 2005 /
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winter solstice 787428SCIENCE OF THE SOLSTICE

As we’ve mentioned before, the Romans celebrated a holiday know as the Saturnalia beginning on the Winter Solstice. The word Solstice comes from the Latin “solstitium” meaning “Sun, standing-still.” This year it will occur on December 21 at 18:35 UT (Greenwich Universal Time.)

Earth enjoys different seasons because the planet is tilted 23 degrees and 27 minutes off the perpendicular to the plane of orbit. This means that the earth revolves like a tilted spinning top. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of sunlight as the Sun is at its lowest arc in the sky, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The farther north one is from the Equator, the more pronounced this is in Winter. However, as the Earth continues its orbit, the hemisphere that is angled closest to the sun changes, and the seasons are reversed.

In the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice, so that it looks like the Sun is “standing still” until following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

History of Santa Lucia

December 13, 2005 /
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SantaLucia 753361HISTORY OF LUCIADAGEN

In Sweden, December 13 is Luciadagen, or St. Lucia’s Day, or in English, St. Lucy. It is the beginning of their holiday season. The Lutheran Danes and Norwegans also celebrate this day. St. Lucia was a young woman who lived in first century Rome. She was a Christian who would not give up her faith to marry an unbeliever. She was tortured and killed by order of the Roman magistrate Paschasius, who ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the Emperor Diocletian’s image. As the ultimate torture, her eyes were gauged out but she was miraculously still able to see and pictures of her depict her holding her eyes on a golden plate, as she remains the patron saint for the blind. Dante consequently mentions Lucia in the second Canto of his Divine Inferno.

Stories of her courage were brought to Sweden by missionaries where she became known as the Lucia Bride. Old people said the Lucia Bride would go out early in the morning to bring food and drink to the poor. She wore white robes and a crown of light. Lucy, like the Latin “lux” means light.

The story is acted out in Swedish homes with the oldest daughter playing the Lucia Bride. Early in the morning on December 13, she brings her parents a tray of sweet saffron buns and some coffee. She wears a white gown and a crown of greens, often made of holly. Her sisters and brothers dress in white and follow her. The girls carry lit candles and the boys wear tall, pointed caps and are called “star boys.”

St. Lucia is also honored in Sicily, where she was born and known as Santa Lucia. Christians there gather to celebrate her day with bonfires and torchlight parades.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com/holidayhistory

History of the Christmas Tree

December 11, 2005 /
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white house christmas tree 744154HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE

It is generally believed that the first Christmas tree was of German origin dating from Boniface, English missionary to Germany in the 8th century, who replaced the sacrifices to Odin’s sacred oak by a fir tree adorned in tribute to the Christ child. The legend is told that Boniface found a group of “pagans” preparing to sacrifice a boy near an oak tree. He cut down the oak tree with a single stroke of his ax and stopped the sacrifice. A small fir tree sprang up in place of the oak. He told the pagans that this was the “tree of life” and stood for Christ.

Accounts persist that Martin Luther introduced the tree lighted with candles. Returning home after a walk one winter night, the story goes, he tried unsuccessfully to describe to his family the beauty of the starry night. He went out and cut down a small fir tree and put lighted candles upon it.

In a manuscript dated 1605 a merchant in Strasbourg, Germany wrote that at Christmas, “they set up fir trees in the parlors in Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of paper of many colors, apples, wafers, spangle-gold and sugar. The custom of decorating the trees may have developed from the medieval Paradise Play. This play was a favorite during the Advent season because it ended with the promise of a Savior. The action in the play centered around a fir tree hung with apples.

In the fifteenth century, trees were decorated with wafers. Later, stars and flowers made from white pastry, and men and animals made from brown pastry, were used.

Christmas tree Albert 707540The earliest date in England for a Christmas Tree was at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor by Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of George III, for a party she held on Christmas Day, 1800, for the children of the leading families in Windsor. Her biographer Dr John Watkins describes the scene:

In the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked around and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore together with a toy and then all returned home, quite delighted.

Christmas tree Albert2 744800The Christmas Tree was most popularized in England, however, by the German Prince Albert, soon after his marriage to Queen Victoria. In 1841, he began the custom of decorating a large tree in Windsor Castle. In 1848, a print showing the Royal couple with their children was published in the “Illustrated London News.” Albert gave trees to Army barracks and imitation followed. From this time onwards, the popularity of decorated fir trees spread beyond Royal circles and throughout society. Even Charles Dickens referred to the Christmas tree as that ‘new German toy’. German immigrants brought the custom to the United States and tree decorating is recorded back to 1747 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Many individuals and communities vie for the honor of having decorated the first Christmas tree in America. One interesting story tells of Hessian soldiers who fought for George III in the Revolutionary War. As they were keeping Christmas in Trenton, New Jersey around a decorated tree, they left their posts unguarded. George Washington and his troops were hungry and freezing at Valley Forge, but they planned their attack with the knowledge that the Hessians would be celebrating and thus would not be as able to defend themselves.

Christmas trees really became popular in the United States following the invention of the electric light. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland decorated the tree at the White House with electric Lights. This idea caught on and spread across the country.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

History of Santa Claus

December 10, 2005 /
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St.Nicholas2 728116HISTORY OF SANTA CLAUS

One of the traditions of Christmas is Santa Claus, a contraction for Saint Nicholas, who was born in the 3rd century, perhaps in A.D. 270. He became a bishop in Greece and gained distinction in the councils of the church, being especially famed for unexpected gifts, and later associated with the giving of presents during the season at the end of the year. “I am Nicholas, a sinner,” the old saint would say. “Nicholas, servant of Christ Jesus.” He was imprisoned during the 303 persecutions under the Roman Emperor Diocletian but freed by decree of Emperor Constantine. Thereafter, he served as Bishop in Myra for another thirty years. Nicholas participated in the famous Council of Nicea in 325. He died on December 6, about 343, and the Feast of St. Nicholas is now held on that day.

Many stories are told of his kindness, such as the one of the poor man and his three daughters. To save the daughters from being sold into prostitution for want of doweries, St. Nicholas dropped a bag full of gold down the man’s chimney. It landed in one of the stockings the eldest daughter had hung up to dry. Now she could be married. The other two daughters quickly hung up stockings for St. Nicholas to fill with gold, so that they, too, could soon be married. By the way, the three gold globes of the pawn shop are attributed to this story.

He seems to have been adopted by the Netherlands as the patron saint of children, and there, on St. Nicholas Eve, they leave their wooden shoes, or sabots, filled with hay for the Saint’s white horse. He is real to children the world over, under various names as Kris Kringle, La Befana, Yule Tomten, and Christkindli.

In 1809 Washington Irving, under the pen name Diedrich Knickerbocker, wrote ‘A History of New York’, wherein Saint Nicholas, a jolly personage smoking a Dutch pipe, skimmed over the treetops in a wagon and dropped presents down the chimneys.

santa claus nast 713647A few years later, in 1822, Clement C. Moore reputedly wrote a poem for his own children which is most often called ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ However, Don Foster in his book “Author Unknown,” makes a case that Henry Livingston actually penned it in 1807 or 1808, but whatever the case, the correct title of the poem is ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’. Many are unaware that never once was used the term Santa Claus, although the reindeer are there, a part of the legend undoubtedly developed in America, probably by Scandinavians in the United States. At last, during the Christmas season of 1862, Thomas Nast, the cartoonist, drew a picture of Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War. Nast combined his own native German traditions of Saint Nicholas with other German folk traditions of elves in creating the image, seen above. His various pictures of Santa Claus ran through 1866, firmly cementing the image in the American mind. The name Santa Claus also became more familiar to American ears than the German Sankt Niklaus or Dutch Sinterklaas.

santa coke 732700Finally, in the 1930s that the now-familiar American Santa image solidified. The artist Haddon Sundblom began Coca-Cola Santa advertisements running for thirty-five years which finally established Santa as an icon of contemporary commercial culture. This Santa was not an elf, but a man — jolly, and wearing the now familiar white fir-trimmed red suit.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com/holidayhistory