1 All About
2 Christmas in
ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS
(Investigator 147, 2012
to do with Christmas; reindeer don't fly;
Rudolph is probably a female; and Santa is a bad role model. Read on:
the most joyous is December 25, Christmas Day,
the traditional anniversary of the "Son of God" being born on Earth.
special meetings including pantomimes of the "three
wise men" giving gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
(Frankincense is harvested in liquid form from Boswellia trees and
burned as incense when dried, and myrrh is a perfume-like secretion of
from "Christ's Mass". In medieval England the
Church celebrated three masses on Christmas day — midnight, dawn and
includes church attendance, feasts, family
get-togethers, Christmas pudding, Christmas tree, Santa's visit,
presents, cards, carols, mince pies, and watching Christmas movies.
it all begin?
270-275) sponsored the cult of Sol Victus
(Invincible Sun) based on the Iranian god Mithra whose birthday was
December 25. Romans also celebrated the "Saturnalia", December 17-24,
characterized by revelry, drunkenness and exchange of gifts. The
Saturnalia included the winter solstice which honoured the "unconquered
sun" when daylight starts to lengthen.
first Christian emperor (311-337), Christ's
birth was fixed to December 25 and the Christian Christmas festival was
celebrated by AD 336.
celebrated the festival of Yuletide with
fellowship, fires, and Yule cakes, and honored the "terrors of the
night" such as demons or spirits. People dressed to represent various
gods or wore demonic masks and horns to represent the demon "Julebuk"
who brought gifts to children. In England the medieval festival known
as the "Feast of Fools" or the "Reign of the Lord of Misrule" retained
some of the Saturnalia and Yultide atmosphere.
penetrated these lands the "demon worship" and
riotous elements of festivals were replaced with church attendance and
customs to honor Christ.
SAINT NICHOLAS and
Nicholas was a 4th
century bishop in sun-baked Asia Minor with a
reputation for secret gift-giving. He once provided dowries for three
girls who otherwise faced becoming prostitutes. Legend has it that on
Christmas Eve he threw purses of gold coins through the window and one
fell into a stocking hung up to dry.
became the patron saint of Russia where he was
considered the protector of children, scholars, merchants and sailors.
Europeans honored him with a feast-day and gift-giving every December
6th. Dutch immigrants brought this custom to New York. To them he was
"Sinterklaas" — a dour figure in dark robes who arrived on a flying
resembles the ancient Germanic god Thor, imagined
by peasants as elderly and bearded, whose chariot, pulled by two goats
through the sky caused thunder at night. Thor was protective of humans
and lived far north in the snow. Whether such similarity proves
derivation is, however, debatable. The modern Santa Claus/Father
Christmas becomes recognizable in 1823 when Clement Clarke Moore,
professor of Hebrew and Oriental languages, wrote the 56-line poem Twas
The Night Before Christmas. The poem moved Saint Nicholas from
6th to 25th and portrayed him as a friendly, fat, pipe-smoking,
white-bearded deliverer of toys. The flying sleigh, chimney-descent,
and stockings are all mentioned and eight reindeer named.
took the poem
to heart, changed "Sinterklaas" to "Santa
Claus", and it became folklore. Thomas Nast (1840-1902) — the "father
of American political cartooning" — converted Moore's word-description
into pictures for Harper's Weekly. The first depiction
January 1863 shows Santa handing presents to Union soldiers. After 1890
Nast's Santa looked exactly like today's Santa including red costume
with white trimmings. Apparently Nast also introduced elves and added
the North Pole workshop.
transferred Santa's home to Lapland because the North
Pole lacking lichen could not sustain reindeer.
"Father Christmas" and the Germans "Der
Weihnachtsman" (literally "The Christmas Man") perhaps because "Santa
Claus" with its Saint Nicholas connection smacked of Catholicism.
connects some aspects of Christmas to Siberian "reindeer people" who
used reindeer for food, clothing and utensils and
to whom reindeer personified the great Reindeer spirit. Tribal shamans
enter trances brought on by eating mushrooms known as fly agaric
(Amanita muscaria). These have a bright red top with white spots
are hallucinogenic and deadly in large doses.
"suggestive" that fly agaric is bright red — like
Santa's costume! Furthermore, Siberian winter dwellings ("yurts")
consisted of excavated holes with birch-log roofs supported by poles. A
hole in the roof for smoke is the main entrance for people i.e. door
and chimney is the same — again reminiscent of Father Christmas! The
shamans are middlemen between tribe and spirit-world from which they
bring songs, legends, tricks and poems — in effect "gifts"
says: "…it seems
reasonable to believe that the story of Father
Christmas and his team of aerial reindeer may have evolved out of such
links, however, are more plausible.
composed in 1857 by James Pierpoint (son of an
abolitionist minister) for children celebrating Thanksgiving. Jingle
Bells was not originally a Christmas song and does not mention
reindeer — rather a horse. The song's catchy rhythm and reference to
sleigh and bells simply made it great for Christmas and it rapidly
the essence of
Christmas intensified in 1897 with the famous New York Sun
editorial (September 21) addressed to Virginia
(1889-1971) reassuring her that Santa is real.
innovation was endless, and consumerism
boomed. Retailers soon exploited America's prosperity with Christmas
advertising and Santa appearing in department stores.
remained variable until 1931 when standardized by
Coca Cola's ad campaign showing Santa drinking coke. Coke's Santa was
painted by Haddon Sundblom (1899-1976) and followed Nast's depiction.
On mainland Europe, however, Father Christmas continued to look more
like a bishop or priest celebrating Mass.
Coots (1897-1985) and lyricist James
Gillespie (1888-1975) complemented Christmas with Santa Claus is
To Town (1934) — one of the biggest sellers in music history.
Christmas trees, gaily decorated, loaded with sweet
edibles, and crowned by a star.
Britannica says: "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths,
and garlands as a symbol of eternal life was an ancient custom of the
Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship, common among the pagan
Europeans, survived after their conversion to Christianity in the
Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens
at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for
the birds during Christmastime..."
further says: "The main prop of a popular medieval play
about Adam and Eve was a fir tree hung with apples (paradise tree)
representing the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in
their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve.
They hung wafers on it…cookies [and] candles..."
says that Martin
Luther cut a small tree one Christmas for his
neighbors' children and attached candles to it. German peasants took up
the practice and also hung presents on the tree on Christmas Eve.
French soldiers brought the custom to France during the Napoleonic
Albert, the German
husband of Queen Victoria, set up a Christmas
tree in Windsor Castle in 1841 and the practice spread through England.
German settlers introduced Christmas trees to America in the 17th
century. Missionaries later introduced Christmas trees to China, Japan
and throughout the world.
and mistletoe had
ancient pagan associations long before being
adopted into Christmas. Holly symbolized the crown of thorns and its
berries Jesus' blood. Mistletoe was sacred to the ancient Druids but to
Christians it symbolized Christian love.
CAROLS, CAKES and
were sung by
wandering minstrels on Christmas Eve in medieval
times — Good King Wenceslas is of 14th century origin. In the
century Caxton's printing press printed the first collection of English
originated in a church in Austria in 1818. Hungry mice had
destroyed the organ bellows which meant no music on Christmas Eve.
Father Mohr saved the situation by fitting a carol he had written to a
tune improvised by schoolmaster Franz Gruber on his guitar. Within 50
years Silent Night was being sung around the world.
Christmas pudding —
today rich and fruity — started off as a
poor-man's dish of flour, milk, salt and herb eaten before mass on
Christmas Eve. This developed into the traditional pudding after King
Henry VIII got delayed in the woods when out hunting on Christmas Eve
and insisted on being served a substantial meal. A servant collected
meat, apples, eggs, flour, sugar and ale at a nearby village and boiled
it all together. By the 18th century "plum pudding" and Christmas
seemed inseparable in England.
England "ruling the
waves" foreign delicacies such as currants,
sugar and spice became cheaper and mince pies with the contents we know
today became popular. In 1770 Sir Henry Grey of Northumberland served
his Christmas guests a pie nine feet in diameter stuffed with
partridges, ducks, geese and rabbits besides fruits and spices.
1800 roast turkey
became the centerpiece of Christmas dinner. The
Spanish had introduced turkeys to Europe from Mexico in the 16th
century and James I was the first English monarch to eat them.
Previously, Queen Elizabeth had dined on peacock and the gentry on swan
or goose stuffed with chestnuts.
2000 million Christmas cards and the British
1000 million, an average of ten per person!
Henry Cole thought
them up in 1843; his artist friend John Horsley
designed the first one; and Summerby's Home Treasury Office in London
printed it. The card depicted Victorian middle-class parents, three
children and grandparents seated around a food-laden table. To the
right and left are pictures depicting poor people receiving food and
clothes, and underneath a banner reads "A MERRY CHRISMAS AND A HAPPY
NEW YEAR TO YOU". The card was hand-colored, expensive, and only 1000
second Christmas card
was designed in 1848 by W M Egley, and
depicted dancing and feasting.
mass-produced Christmas cards, brightly colored and
cheap. Prussian lithographer Louis Prang introduced them to the USA in
the 1870s. Today, popular depictions include:
Stable and animals;
Shepherds and sheep;
Reindeer appeared in 1939 in a booklet authored
by Robert May and 2,400,000 copies distributed.
Johnny Marks (1909-1984) adapted Rudolph into a
song released by Gene Autry in 1949. The song reached No. 1 and Rudolph
entered folklore. Further recordings were made by Bing Crosby (1950),
Dean Martin (1959), The Jackson Five (1970) and many other celebrities.
lead reindeer with a glowing red nose that
shines through bad weather like car headlights.
first appeared on
screen in 1947 in a cartoon short; NBC
released an animated TV special in 1964 which introduced a reindeer
love interest named Clarice; and in 1998 came Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer: The Movie. Rudolph also appeared annually in DC Comics
1950-1962, and in Golden Books (1958).
sex. Possession of antlers at Christmas
identifies "him" as female since males lose their antlers in
November-December whereas females retain them until spring.
Alternatively Rudolph is a eunuch — since castrated male reindeer
retain their antlers. Inform all children!
NORTH POLE and CHILDREN
Santa" is a US
Postal Service program at North Pole, an
actual town in Alaska, which answers "Dear Santa" letters. Since 1954
many children have received replies with genuine "North Pole" postmarks.
Santa worker was found to be a registered sex
offender and the Postal Service decided to cease Operation Santa. North
Pole residents protested and the mayor, Doug Isaacson "accused the
postal service of riding roughshod over his town." (The Weekend
Australian 2009, November 21-22, p21)
as Puritans outlawed England's 12-day-long
Christmas festivities from 1642 to 1660 as "heathen customs" and
Parliament substituted a holiday the second Tuesday of every month. The
ban failed because the public simply loved Christmas! (Durston 1985)
Jehovah's Witnesses ignore Christmas because of
its "pagan origins" but may compensate children with presents several
weeks before or after. Enquiry at a Church of Christ revealed that the
parents don't teach their children about Santa or his reindeer because
the Bible condemns lies. Instead they focused on Jesus' birth and gave
children presents to honor Jesus.
Santa a pleasant fantasy to make growing up more
joyful, no more deceitful than movies or fiction books. Santa, however,
is so pervasive that to kids he's more real than God and includes:
Meeting him in stores;
Personalized e-mails from Santa's workshop;
Internet tracking of his sleigh on Christmas Eve;
Testimony from trusted parents and relatives;
Physical evidence of gifts by the Christmas tree.
stockings which sound an alarm when gifts are inserted
are commercially available and would expose the truth, but most kids
don't know about them.
survey of adults 86%
admitted having believed in Santa. Most
stopped believing between age 6 and 10 although 15% still believed
after age 10. (Vines 2007) The myth crumbles when adults stop
reinforcing it and children piece the evidence together.
CHRISTMAS PAIN and
and McCallum (2007)
write: "Christmas and the following 2 weeks
host the highest cardiac and non-cardiac mortality of the major
holidays... On the positive side, some ancient kinds of Christmas gifts
turn out to have modern medical applications…"
compounds to treat rheumatoid arthritis and
tuberculosis; frankincense to inhibit asthma and microbes; myrrh for
schistosomiasis and antibacterial activity; and mistletoe extracts to
treat bladder carcinoma and prostate cancer.
Christmas is a health Hazard said:
Pirola, associate professor of medicine at Sydney's
Prince of Wales Hospital, said…doctors were preparing for an influx of
gluttony-related health problems late in December…a small percentage
would simply feast themselves to death.
with overeating was gullet rupture, a condition
where the stomach lining broke because of a vomiting attack triggered
by eating too much…
trigger gall bladder disease in those prone to the
problem. (The Advertiser [South Australia] 1991, December 12, p3)
report added that
heavy drinking may cause pancreatitis which kills
10% of sufferers, gastritis with blood-vomiting and death, and liver
failure from alcoholic hepatitis; and that overeating could ignite
Association warned that: "every year people in a
hurry wound up in agony during the Christmas shopping rush…back
problems increased about 20 per cent at Christmas, and there appeared
to be a direct link to shopping." (Ibid)
painful perhaps your doctor will prescribe myrrh
as a painkiller:
Nature says mice were fed a "drink" of ground commercial
myrrh, then put on a metal plate heated to 52C and watched to see how
soon they would react by licking their paws.
"myrrh" mice lasted
20 minutes — nearly six minutes longer than "normal" mice… (The
Advertiser January 6, 1996, p3)
relief, try distracting yourself with Santa movies:
Miracle on 34th Street
Claus Conquers the Martians
That Almost Wasn't
on 34th Street
Life & Adventures of Santa Claus
Santa Clause II
Santa Clause III
Year Without Santa Claus
of the Santas
what sort of
role model is Santa? He promotes generosity which
is commendable. Imitate his other habits, however, and you'll soon be
in hospital or jail.
pharmacist, points out on the Internet that Santa is
obese (prefers cookies to vegetables), exceeds speed limits, drinks on
the job, lurks on icy/slippery rooftops, breaks and enters, creates
fire hazards in chimneys, and ignores safety-helmet and seat-belt laws.
C Lords of
Misrule, History Today, December 1985, pp
Christmas, December 1972, pp 7-10
Christmas Cards, December 1972, pp 24-26
M and McCallum,
B J The Medical Journal of Australia,
2007; 187 (11/12): 701-702
Day/Woman's World, December 23, 1981, pp 14-16
delusion, New Scientist, December 22/29,
CHRISTMAS in ENGLAND
(Investigator 147, 2012
"Santa Claus" and "Father Christmas" are acceptable
and used in today's UK, at least 99% of children talk of
In all the big
stores, especially in central London, there is
still a grotto of sorts set up several weeks before 25th December,
where kids for a fee can visit Father Christmas (NEVER Santa Claus!),
tell him what they want delivered to them on Christmas day, and receive
a small "gift" from him.
big change that is
evident in these grottos is that in my childhood
(in the Myer Emporium in Adelaide) the child sat on Father Christmas'
lap. Nowadays, that doesn't happen — childhood sexual abuse legislation!
spent my first
Xmas in the UK in 1951 I noted that the average
UK family probably received (and displayed in their homes) a hundred
cards whereas in Australia Xmas cards were hardly seen.
more yule logs and mistletoe decorations than in
Adelaide. (For several weeks each year, at Xmas time, while at Adelaide
High School, I worked as a part-time sales assistant at the said Myer
Emporium, so I'd have been aware of what was being sold!)
remains unchanged in the UK and yes, kids
still leave especially purchased stockings or pillow cases at the foot
of their beds. There are also the reindeer, and he lives at the North
of our kids
wrote to him there and received a reply — the post
office organized this at the time.)
the other legends
also remain in place.
received a 'Christmas
catalogue' of Children's gifts from one of our
largest stores. In 130 pages there is NO reference, anywhere, to Father
Christmas or Santa Claus or Christ.
Over 1700 articles from Investigator
Magazine on this website: