Father Christmas is a well-loved figure in many countries and predates the Santa Claus character. Father Christmas is similar in many ways, though the two have quite different origins. Using 'Santa' in places that predominantly call him Father Christmas may be viewed as an Americanism, although they are generally nowadays regarded as the same character. Santa Claus is inexorably tied to Christmas in American culture, but in some cultures, he is not associated with Christmas at all, arriving on a different day (for instance December 6th, St. Nicholas' day) while baby Jesus brings presents on Christmas eve.
* 1 Overview
* 2 Historical origins
* 3 Santa Claus in popular culture
o 3.1 Santa Claus rituals
o 3.2 Ho, ho, ho
o 3.3 Santa Claus's reindeers' names
o 3.4 Santa Claus in film
o 3.5 NASA and Santa Cooperation
o 3.6 NORAD
o 3.7 SantaCon
o 3.8 Santa's Mail
o 3.9 Little Jesus
* 4 Christian opposition to Santa Claus
* 5 See also
o 5.1 Related Topics
o 5.2 Variations of Christmas around the world
o 5.3 Related Figues
* 6 Notes
* 7 External links
* 8 References
Santa Claus is a variation of a Dutch folk tale based on the historical figure Saint Nicholas, a bishop from Myra in Asia Minor (the greater part of modern-day Turkey), who used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. His charity became legend when a man lost his fortune and found himself incapable of supporting his three daughters, who would not be able to find husbands as they lacked dowries. This man was going to give them over to a life of prostitution; however, St Nicholas provided them with gold, enabling them to retain their virginal virtues and marry.
This inspired figure of Sinterklaas, the subject of a major celebration in the Netherlands and Belgium, Germany (where his believed date of death, December 6, is celebrated the evening before on December 5), which in turn inspired both the myth and the name of Santa Claus. "Santa Claus" is actually a mispronunciation of the Dutch word "Sinterklaas" by the English settlers of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York). Whilst in those countries Saint Nicholas is celebrated as a distinct character with a religious touch separate from Christmas, Santa Claus is also making inroads as a symbol during the Christmas season.citation needed
Santa Claus is an example of folklore mythology. He now forms an important part of the Christmas tradition throughout the Western World and Japan and other parts of East Asia.
Santa Claus is traditionally represented in a red cloak with white fur trimmings, a reference to St Nicholas, who reputably performed his charitable acts dressed in his red bishop's robes.
In many Eastern Orthodox traditions, Santa Claus visits children on New Year's Day and is identified with Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (contemporary Turkey), whose memory is celebrated on that day. According to the Greek tradition, he is supposed to visit children and give presents every January 1. This festival is also marked by the baking of Saint Basil's bread a sweetbread with a coin hidden inside.
Depictions of Santa Claus also have a close relationship with the Russian character of Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost"). He delivers presents to children and has a red coat, fur boots and long white beard. Much of the iconography of Santa Claus could be seen to derive from Russian traditions of Ded Moroz, particularly transmitted into western European culture through his German folklore equivalent, Väterchen Frost.
Conventionally, Santa Claus is portrayed as a kindly, round-bellied, merry, bespectacled white man in a red coat trimmed with white fur (perhaps remotely derived from the episcopal vestments of the original Bishop Nicholas), with a long white beard and green or white gloves. On Christmas Eve, he rides in his sleigh pulled by flying reindeer from house to house to give presents to children. To enter the house, Santa Claus comes down the chimney and exits through the fireplace. During the rest of the year he lives together with his wife Mrs. Claus and his elves manufacturing toys. Some modern depictions of Santa (often in advertising and popular entertainment) will show the elves and Santa's workshop as more of a processing and distribution facility, ordering and receiving the toys from various toy manufacturers from across the world. His home is usually given as either the North Pole, in northern Canada, Korvatunturi in Finnish Lapland, Drøbak in Norway, Dalecarlia in Sweden, or Greenland, depending on the tradition and country. Sometimes Santa's home is in Caesarea when he is identified as Saint Basil. L. Frank Baum placed his home in The Laughing Valley of Hohaho. In the original Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas lives in Spain and is accompanied by a great number of black servants, called 'Zwarte Pieten', which means Black Petes.
See also: Christmas gift-bringers around the world and Christmas worldwide
Santa Claus in popular culture
Santa Claus rituals
Several rituals have developed around the Santa Claus figure that are normally performed by children hoping to receive gifts from him. See main article: Santa Claus rituals.
Ho, ho, ho
Ho ho ho is the way that many languages write out how Santa Claus laughs. "Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!"
The laughter of Santa Claus has long been an important attribute by which the character is identified, but it also does not appear in many non-English-speaking countries. The traditional Christmas poem A Visit from St. Nicholas relates that Santa has:
. . . a little round belly
That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly
Ho ho ho represents an attempt to write the deep belly-laugh of Santa Claus, as opposed to the conventional, higher-pitched ha ha or he he that represents the laughter of thinner characters, or the snickering, cynical bwa/mwa ha ha! associated with the villains of melodrama.
Jacob Grimm asserts that "Ho ho ho" was the hunting cry of Odin during The Furious Host. Odin being attributal to Santa Claus.
"H0H 0H0" is a postal code used by Canada Post for routing letters sent in Canada to Santa Claus at the North Pole. The alphanumeric sequence falls within a grouping associated with the Montreal, Quebec area.
Santa Claus's reindeers' names
Main article: Santa Claus' reindeer
Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen are the most commonly cited names of Santa's nine reindeer. In the poem "The Night Before Christmas" (attributed to Clement C. Moore), from which the names of the reindeer come, the reindeer known today as Donner and Blitzen were originally Dunder and Blixem (the Dutch words "Donder" and "Bliksem" stand for "thunder" and "lightning", as rendered in English orthography). Dunder was later reprinted as Donder, which developed into Donner (the German for "thunder"); while Blixem was reprinted as Blitzen (Blitz is German for "lightning").1. All of these reindeer names are recited in the first verse of the popular song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which in turn has helped make Rudolph by far the best known and most popular with children.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was born for the American department store chain Montgomery Ward in 1939, and has since entered the public consciousness as Santa's ninth and lead reindeer.
All of the above reindeer have been featured in many films, although in the film The Polar Express only eight of the reindeer can be seen pulling Santa's sleigh.
Also, in the movie The Santa Clause 2 Chet is a reindeer in training. Country singer Joe Diffie sang of "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer" in his 1995 song of the same title.
Santa Claus in film
Main article: Santa Claus in film
NASA and Santa Cooperation
NASA1 has recently begun providing specialised technical assistance to Santa on Christmas eve in order to help Santa deliver presents across Earth. According to a NASA press bulletin
The Debris Imaging Radar System, used during the night launch of NASA's space shuttle mission STS-116, is a new system at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that will now be made available to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
Based on its success in identifying even the smallest amount of debris coming off the orbiter or the external tank, NASA has strong confidence the system will provide assistance in observing Santa's sleigh. Since the elves have the packages piled high, NASA can determine with great accuracy if any gifts planned for delivery fall off the sleigh. The radar system is capable of high-definition radar imagery, so the approximate shape, size and weight of the packages can be determined.
This could greatly help Santa recover the packages so that no child is disappointed by not receiving the presents the jolly fellow promised while he made the rounds in shopping malls before Christmas. The radar has an auto-track mode so that it can be left unattended on Christmas Eve and still perform its intended function. The system will be automatically activated once NASA's air traffic control radar located on north KSC has made radar contact with Santa's sleigh.
Also of assistance to Santa this year is the new Differential Global Positioning Satellite System ground station at the Shuttle Landing Facility. These new GPS antennas located near the control tower can help if there is an emergency. Since the sleigh is now GPS equipped, it can guide Santa to a landing within 10 feet of the runway's centerline, regardless of which end of the runway he needs to use.
Though Shuttle Landing Facility personnel will be on holiday leave, officials at the NASA Tower have agreed to provide the customary support by turning the landing lights on before they depart for Christmas, as well as turning on the TACAN radio homing beacon and the visual alternating green and white lighted rotating beacon.
NASA will use the orbiter Discovery to mimic Santa's sleigh during the STS-116 landing currently planned for Friday, in order to test the ability to operate these two new systems in auto-track mode. If the orbiter is waved off to land on the West Coast, the Shuttle Training Aircraft will be used to simulate Santa's sleigh.
If Santa needs help, one of the primary radio frequencies normally used for communication in restricted airspace will still be monitored by the Air Force Eastern Range and also NASA security.
According to the NORAD Santa Tracking website2, Santa is 'tracked' every Christmas Eve with the same equipment that tracks the presence of aircraft entering North American airspace. In addition, the Canadian Armed Forces regularly officially announce on Christmas Eve that Santa is "escorted into Canadian airspace by jet fighters", apparently to keep with the spirit of the night.
Main article: SantaCon
SantaCon is a mass gathering of people dressed in cheap Santa Claus costumes, performing publicly on streets and in bars. The focus is on spontaneity, creativity, and the improvisational nature of human interaction while having a good time. Variously known as Santarchy, Santa Rampage and the Red Menace, SantaCon events are noted for bawdy and harmless behavior, including the singing of naughty Christmas carols, and the giving of gifts. Some participants see SantaCon as a postmodern revival of Saturnalia, while others see the event as a precursor of the flash mob.
Many children write letters to Santa, usually to tell him what gifts they wish to recieve. Many of these letters get sent to the small town of North Pole, Alaska near Fairbanks. In 2005, 120,000 letters arrived from 26 countries, not counting the thousands with no return address. Those that do have return addresses usually get a reply and a North Pole postmark in a holiday effort that has delighted children all over the world for decades. Some people have also claimed that Santa lives in northern Finland, closer to the GMT time zone, so Santa would be able to catch up to the time zones to deliver presents at the correct time.
Letters trickle in year-round in the community of 1,600, where light poles are curved and striped like candy canes and streets have names such as Santa Claus Lane and Kris Kringle Drive. Around Thanksgiving, they start pouring in by the thousands each day as Christmas approaches. Even stampless letters get through, a rare exception for the U.S. Postal Service.
When parents and other adults write their own Santa replies, put them in a stamped, self-addressed envelope and tuck them into a larger envelope addressed to the Fairbanks post office, these are sent to the children. In other cases, the volunteers, called "Santa's Elves," reply to any letter with a return address. Either way, replies get a North Pole postal cancellation mark, complete with a half-moon drawing of Santa's face. The Fairbanks post office also stamps the postmark on thousands of Christmas cards and packages diverted through Alaska from outside the state each year.
Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks also runs a Santa letter project. Santa's Mailbag was started in 1954 by base weather forecasters. In 2005, more than 4,000 letters were received and followed up with replies from base volunteers. Many of the letters came from children of military families stationed in the lower 48 states and abroad, but civilian children also are welcome to write.
The post office in Santa Claus, Indiana (which is the home of Holiday World, formerly known as Santa Claus Land) will also postmark a letter with their Christmas-themed cancellation stamp around this time of year.
Canada Post assigns a special postal code "H0H 0H0" to mail for Santa Claus. The three digits are zeroes, not letter Os, to comply with Canada's postal code format.
There are websites where children can send Santa Claus e-mail.