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Did you ever get the feeling that there could be a dark side to Christmas?
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Did you ever get the feeling that there could be a dark side to Christmas? Nothing to do with Jesus Christ, of course. Something to do with Santa Claus, perhaps. Who was he really? What do we really know about him? Is there something dark hiding behind this character? There is no fact on this, only mere legends. For one thing the technology so many years ago was not advanced at all. For example, paper printing was not even invented until 1450. So storing accurate information was no easy task, in some ways impossible. No printing, no electricity, no computers, no data storage, no record. Therefore, well have to rely on stories that have been passed down from generations.
The legend may have begun over 50,000 years ago. A long line of hairy pagan creatures sometimes referred to as Wild Men are believed to have roamed the earth for thousands of years and Santa Claus may have been the last of them. With the spread of Christianity, the Wild Man's image became associated with Satan. So perhaps, the so-called creature evolved into a more normal role. Some conclude that Santa Claus and a host of various demons that have accompanied him can be traced back to a dark, hairy beast-god of prehistoric times that commanded all elements of nature, including life and death. Consequently, he killed himself and was resurrected the following spring. Ancient civilizations reenacted this with animal and human sacrifices.
Then there is the legend of Saint Nicholas an Arch Bishop of Myra in Asia, now Denre, Turkey from the fourth century. He was rich and had his own secret charity. He was known as a do-gooder and was remembered for performing some amazing feats such as reviving three children who were dismembered. St.Nick would travel to homes and give good children gifts and punish the bad ones. He usually traveled with a spooky companion, who carried whips and chains, known by several names including Black Pete and Grampus. The bad children were beaten by his black-faced partner and then stuffed into a large sack taken away to some unknown hell. St.Nick was very religious and the children had to know their religious scriptures or be damned. Know we can see where the custom of the sack came from. The St.Nick visit was like a judgment day. Apparently, society softened St.Nick from a frightful holiday judge to a festive gift giver. The evil companion Black Pete forgotten. Erased from history sort we say.
Legends of St.Nick spread all over Europe adding to his folklore. The European conception of Santa was mainly an old man, long white beard, robes, who rode a white horse and traveled with frightening companions who whipped bad children. Many countries have created their own variation of St.Nick. In Holland he sails in on a ship arriving December 6th. He carries a book listed with the names of good and bad children. Consequently, Black Pete takes the bad ones away. Similarly, in Germany, Pete just gives them a few hits of the rod. When the legend was passed down by immigrants to the United States he began to be known as Santa Claus, a slang version of the Dutch Sint Nikolass. After Saint Nicholas died his remains were stolen and then returned. Upon returning them, one of the sailors on the ship stole a small bone; a deadly storm arose endangering the ship. The sailor feared it was the powers of the Saint, so he returned the bone to the casket and miraculously the storm disappeared. The image of this saint was transformed into a mystical being, known for rewarding the good and punishing the bad.
The media sometimes adds to the idea of a dark Santa Claus. For example, the 1984 cult classic film SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT portrayed the killer as Santa. A boy named Billy was traumatized by his parents' Christmas Eve rape and murder and then he is abused by orphanage nuns. But when he grows up he goes on a rampage to punish the naughty dressed as jolly old St.Nick. The controversial film was a big success with teens, but parents picketed forcing Tri-Star to pull the film from theaters. The film spawned four sequels and several copy cats, such as PSYCO SANTA and SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT. Moreover, New Line Studios 2000 film LITTLE NICKY with Adam Sandler is about the son of Satan. Not much to do with St.Nick, however, the name "Nick" is considered an alias for Satan.
Lets take a look at a few bullet points. The term "HO HO HO" originated from the Devil's bluster of medieval plays. Santa's suit color is demon red. Santa is Satan spelled inside out. Some of Webster's Dictionary definitions of ELF are evil spirit and devil. Old Nick is a well known British name of the Devil. "Claus" is olde English for "hoof-claws". Now, consider these little facts about Santa Claus; He is a dirty old man who likes young children, he sneaks into stranger's houses late at night when their sleeping, he eats their food, he whips animals, he is unemployed (except one day a year), and enslaves little people to intense sweat shop labor. Sound perverse to you?
So, who really is this man we call Santa Claus? There are so many varied explanations of how St.Nicholas evolved into the figure we know. Consequently, Santa's roots lie in folklore, various customs and beliefs from many sources. The hidden stories and mystique are there, but we will never really explore them too deeply because society has written a new Santa to blind us. In 1823, a man named Irving wrote a poem called "Twas The Night Before Christmas", beginning the modern day acceptable vision of Santa Claus, in red suit with white fur riding a sleigh with reindeer. Many years later, Macy's, Coca Cola, Film, TV, Children's books and others all conglomerated the new Santa icon that we all know today. Like Christmas, the Halloween holiday also has some darkness in its past; On October 31st spirits of the dead were believed to roam freely, known as the Celtic day of the dead. Leave it up to society to mask something evil and turn it into merchandising mechanism.
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"This was a very interesting and a turnpager essay. I also like to write essays but i can never think of that can i write this type of essay.Best of luck.Love KULSOOM" -- kulsoom, karachi, sindh, pakistan.
"Normally I wouldn't give this high score. But What I like this you are given your reader another point of view. I am sure diffrent people celebrated the hollie days diffrently and now you are showing another point of view than our own so there for I rate ten." -- Jeanette H, Spring Hill , Fl , Hernado.
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© 2004 Chris Hofmann
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