Thursday, December 18, 2008

Writers rule, man

What do you actually know about this dude Santa Claus? Do you believe, like many people do about marriage, that he has been around forever?

Is anyone else alarmed by the notion that he "sees you when you're sleeping?" Why does he need to see you when you're sleeping, I have to ask myself?

A long time ago I interviewed an exchange student from Denmark who had exchanged her life in that scenic country for one year in Flint.

It was a Christmas story, but without digging out the relevant issue of East Village Magazine from a box under my bed, I only remember one thing: her family would put out some bizarre food like custard for their version of Santa, and that she said the mice ate it all.

Maybe the life in Denmark wasn't all that great if there were all those mice running about eating the custard.

I find it interesting that a lot of the things people believe, or at least lie to their kids about, come from pagan rites. (I don't blame people for telling their kids that there's a Santa Claus, by the way; I think it's a good thing.)

In the British colonies of North America and later the United States, British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further. For example, in Washington Irving's History of New York, (1809), Sinterklaas was Americanized into "Santa Claus" but lost his bishop's apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat. Irving's book was a lampoon of the Dutch culture of New York, and much of this portrait is his joking invention. (Source: Wikipedia)
Oh that Washington Irving - what a jokester.

Santa as the jolly old elf only became popular in the U.S. after the guy who wrote The Night Before Christmas described him, in the 19th century (1823). The word "elf" and the fact that he slips down the chimney implies that he was less than what we consider full sized (no offense intended to my elfin readers).

So if you read the entire Wikipedia entry, you could believe that good ol' Santy is actually quite goat-like.

Surprisingly, not everyone in the world "thinks" Santa lives at the North Pole. Why would you tell your kids that he lives 2 streets over? Hmmmm?

Whatever the origin, or the case, the legend of Santa Claus has become quite the advertising icon. And he's probably been around longer than the institution of marriage.

Wow, wait til you find out about the Christmas tree (if you don't know already).

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