Every one of us has heard of the famous father of Christmas – Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas or Father Christmas, he answers to all three names, but his existence remains something of a festive mystery.
Saint Nicholas was born a long, long time ago -around 289 AD and not in Finland, Iceland or even the North Pole – he was in fact born in what is now Turkey (is that why at Christmas, we eat a bird with the same name….. who can tell…?)
From the get go, Saint Nicholas was known for his kindness, charity and generosity, especially towards children and his fame soon spread far and wide. By the 15th century he was a popular and much celebrated saint in Europe, with his day of celebration not being December 25th, but December 6th! It was the Dutch people, who brought Saint Nicholas to the USA, where he was soon established as the figurehead of Christmas present giving.
But how did he come to settle at the North Pole? Well, he made the move in the mid 1800s (or at least that’s when we first got wind of it!) Quite why remains unanswered, but it was most likely due to his teaming up with a band of magical elves from the region, who he asked to help him with his efforts of gift production and distribution – as the elves lived at the North Pole, it made sense for Santa to do so too!
For many a year, Santa Claus remained a confirmed bachelor until he finally met his one true love and rumour has it that they were married at a secret ceremony on St Valentine’s Day in 1815 – what an old romantic! Although Mrs Claus’ identify remains hush-hush.
So, if we were to head off to the North Pole, surely we must find him? Well, yes it’s true that you can visit Santa’s hometown; however, be warned, you will be most unlikely to set eyes on him. He has many, many ‘stand-ins’ who work on his behalf to meet and greet visitors – indeed he has recruited literally thousands of Santa doubles all over the world, who do a sterling job of gathering information from children about what they would like for Christmas.
So even if you think you’ve met the real Santa, well it’s highly probable that you haven’t (sorry to disappoint, but superstars must remain out of the public eye).
After all, Santa needs to keep a low profile so that he can concentrate on his very important work of making sure that presents are produced and distributed – this is a mammoth task and one that grows every year – it must be a logistical nightmare! So just how does Santa do this? Well, in addition to all those hard working elves, he also has the fastest vehicle in the world – his supersonic sleigh – and a team of trusty reindeer to pull it for him. He’s taken to the skies as this was the easiest and fastest way to get around to everyone. Of course many a sceptic has pointed out that it is impossible for a heavy sleigh and reindeer to fly – well ordinarily it would be, but Santa clearly has a nifty trick or two up his big red sleeve. Perhaps he keeps up to date with modern technology and uses the latest gizmo to help him in his efforts? We can only speculate.
Although Santa Claus is shrouded in magical mystery, one thing we do know for sure is that a strong and unwavering belief is required in order for you to be a lucky recipient of a visit from him; just a tiny fraction of doubt and you can wave goodbye to the sound of reindeer bells jingle jangling over your roof on Christmas Eve. What’s more, if you fail to go to sleep, you won’t receive a visit either – it’s a tough call, but then again, rules are rules….
OK, OK, I can hear you all muttering that this is just a myth! Well, you’re entitled to your opinion – but I’d remind you of the facts: Saint Nicholas was born and did exist; he was a generous and kind man, who bestowed gifts on others, especially extending charity to children and the needy.
I’d suggest to you that Christmas is the perfect time to be open minded: even Shakespeare, via his character Hamlet, said, “there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of…”
Maybe, as you get older, Santa Claus exists in a different form: perhaps he is the spirit of kindness and charity, especially at Christmas – every time someone gives something to another, expecting no reward, he is there.
Don’t forget to hang up your stockings – you never know when the big man might swing by!