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History of #Christmas Traditions: #StNick, Reindeer, + Trees #ChristmasEve #MerryChristmas

The writer in me loves looking into the origins of our holidays and celebrations, so for the Christmas season, I'm dedicating this post to St. Nick, reindeer, and the decorating of trees.  As usual with my origins/history posts, I'll do my disclaimer that I'm an author, not a historian, but I'm used to doing thorough research for my novels!  

Obviously, St. Nick is a well-known figure associated with the Christmas holiday.  While most people are familiar with the story of Jesus's birth in Bethlehem, though, many are unaware of how a 4th century Bishop influenced the legend of Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas of Myra
Saint Nicholas, or Nikolaos of Myra, was a bishop in an ancient town in Lycia--now Demre, in the Antalya Province of Turkey. One of his most well-known deeds involved giving unexpected gifts, one of which landed in a stocking.  In the story, Nicholas wanted to help three young girls, whose father had no money for their dowries.  At that point in history, such a fate would result in a life of prostitution. Not wanting to embarrass the poor father, Nicholas threw bags of gold coins through the windows.  In one version of the tale, the father laid in wait to discover who was doing this...and so instead of throwing the third bag through the window, Nicholas dropped it down the chimney, and it landed in a stocking hung to dry by the fire.

Sinterklaas rides
a white horse
The Dutch figure of Sinterklass is based upon Saint Nick, and he more resembles the white-bearded man in red we're all familiar with. In turn, our Santa Claus is derived from Sinterklass, and it's widely believed that he was introduced to North America around the time of the Revolutionary War, by inhabitants of New York City, which was once New Amsterdam, a Dutch colony.

Of course, many other sources have combined to shape both the modern-day image of Santa Claus and the various legends and traditions which have evolved.  For example, what about the sled pulled by reindeer?

That brings us back to NYC, and the 1823 poem by Clement Clarke Moore--A Visit From St. Nicholas ('Twas the Night Before Christmas).  The names of eight flying reindeer are listed, and they are portrayed pulling a sleigh full of gifts, landing on rooftops so St. Nick can deliver toys.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was added to the mix in 1939, when Robert L. May created the story of the leader of the reindeer team in a booklet distributed as a Christmas promotion by Montgomery Ward.

The tradition of decorating trees is more difficult to pin down in terms of specific dates and regions.  I remember learning in a college class (a LONG time ago, but it stuck with me...) how certain pagan rituals became entwined with Christian celebrations.  The professor discussed how in ancient times, people often believed their actions could influence the future, so decorating trees that mysteriously stayed green throughout the dark winter with fruit and berries could help produce a plentiful spring harvest.  What I've read online supports this theory, and it is known that historically people used greenery to decorate during the winter months, both as symbols of life and as festive decorations for celebrations.  Most sources agree the modern practice of putting up a Christmas tree and decorating it can be traced back to 16th century western Germany.  The idea of evergreen trees representing everlasting life dovetails with the Christian celebration of Jesus's birth.

The holidays can be such a busy time, and I'm hoping my blog readers who celebrate Christmas have some time to relax and enjoy the magic of the season.  And if you need a book to help you de-stress, check out one of my novels - each one is filled with romance, mystery, and suspense - something for everyone! Also perfect as a last-minute gift, since all you need to send someone a Kindle copy is an email address. Each one is less that the price of a card (Dangerous Currents is actually on sale right now for just 99c on Kindle)!

My happy place!

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Holidays!

Book Review: “Seraphim” by Leslie Swartz ️️️️️
Translating myself

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