We all know that Father Christmas has lots of different names all over the world... but who was he originally? ETK can tell you:-
St. Nicholas was a Bishop, who lived in the fourth century AD in Myra, (which is now Turkey). He was a very rich man, through inheritance & had a reputation for helping the poor & giving secret gifts to people who needed it. There are several legends about St. Nicholas, but the main tale regarding him - also explains why we hang our stockings up for Father Christmas to fill each year:
"There was a poor man who had 3 daughters, he was so poor that he didn't have enough money for a dowry, & so his daughters couldn't get married. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney & into the house, to enable the eldest daughter to marry. The bag of coins fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later for the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening, until he caught Nicholas dropping in the last bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he didn't want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out & when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas."
Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint, of both children & sailors (weird combination, we know.) The red suit is thought to originate from the red Bishop's robes that St Nicholas wore.
St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra & later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. It's thought he died on 6th December 345 or 352 AD. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters & give them safe voyages throughout the year.
In the 16th Century in Europe, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas had become very unpopular - but someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK - particularly in England - he became 'Father Christmas', a character from old children's stories (in Scotland he's more commonly known as Santa).
In France, he was then known as 'Père Nöel', in Germany the 'Christ Kind'. In the early USA, his name was 'Kris Kringle' & later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them & Kris Kringle became 'Sinterklaas' or as we now say:- 'Santa Claus'!
St. Nicholas became popular again in the Victorian era when writers, poets & artists rediscovered the old stories. The UK Father Christmas & the American Santa Claus became more & more alike over the years & are now one & the same!
Some say that Santa lives at the North Pole. In Finland, it's believed that he lives in the northern part of Finland - Lapland.
But we all know that wherever he lives - on December 24th, he travels through the night, worldwide, on a sleigh that is pulled by his trusty reindeer, (here goes!):- Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner & Blitzen. (In actual fact, Rudolph may actually be a girl - as only female reindeer keep their antlers throughout winter! By Christmas time, most males have discarded their antlers & don't grow new ones until the spring!)
But do remember - that he will only visit your house & leave presents when you are all safely tucked up in bed & alsleep - so no peeking or trying to stay awake on December 24th - or your stockings will be empty ....
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