Santa has many faces


Jolly old elf doesn’t always wear red and white

By Jackie Wolgamott - For The Times-Gazette



Santa and Mrs. Claus are pictured handing out candy canes at the Hillsboro Walmart earlier this month.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are pictured handing out candy canes at the Hillsboro Walmart earlier this month.


Photo by Jackie Wolgamott

Would you believe that Santa Claus didn’t always wear a red suit? Back before Coca Cola made images of Santa in his red and white suit popular, he wore blue and tan. And, according to folklore, Santa wasn’t always a right jolly old elf, and still isn’t in some countries.

Santa Claus can be traced back to almost 2,000 years ago. A bishop, St. Nicholas, was born in 280 A.D. and died in 340 A.D. He was the bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. He was sent there when he was about 30 years old. He was known for his charity and wisdom and giving impoverished children gifts.

In the 11th century, soldiers from Italy took St. Nicholas’ remains back to Italy. They built a church in his honor. Christian pilgrims came to visit and took the legend of St. Nicholas back to their native lands. St. Nicholas soon took on the characteristics of those native lands.

St. Nicholas died on Dec. 6, 340 A.D. In 1773, Dutch families gathered together in New York to honor the anniversary of his death. These families brought the legend of Sinterklass with them to America. Sinterklass is a bishop wearing a red bishop’s costume and riding a white horse. In America, Sinterklass became a jolly old elf in 1823, when the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was written by Clement Moore.

In the 12th century, Germany, France and Holland celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6. It was a day of giving, charity and feasting.

Today in Holland, Sinterklass sails in on a ship, arriving on Dec. 5. He has an assistant that helps him deliver gifts. Sinterklass also carries a big book containing all of the children’s names, and he can look to see who has been good or bad.

In Germany, Knecht Ruprecht visits homes with a sack on his back and a rod in his hand. Krampus, his assistant, disciplines the bad children.

In Italy, La Befano, a good witch dressed in black, brings gifts on Jan. 6, on the day of Epiphany.

Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico and South America also celebrate on Jan. 6, but it is the day the wise men bring gifts. Dec. 25 is solely a day for religious celebrations.

In France, England and the United Kingdom, Father Christmas delivers the gifts.

In Russia, Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, delivers the gifts on New Year’s Day.

In Iran, Amu Nowuz doesn’t stop until March 21 on the spring equinox. It celebrates with bonfires and fireworks.

In Switzerland, Christkindl, or the Christ Child, brings gifts. Christkindl is a female angel.

Kris Kringle is the lesser known and less researched of the Christmas spirits. He has more ties to religion. In the British translation of the Pennsylvania German Christkindl, Kris Kringle is based on the idea of literal personification of the baby Jesus. Children are forbidden to see Kris Kringle, with the thought that they won’t receive any gifts if they attempt to see him. The Pennsylvania Dutch still refer to Santa Claus as Kris Kringle.

In German speaking countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Hungary, the Son of God is considered to be the traditional gift bringer, born into this world to bring people gifts at Christmastime.

Sources for this story included history.com, openforchristmas.com, wyliepwprint.com and holidays.net.

Jackie Wolgamott is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are pictured handing out candy canes at the Hillsboro Walmart earlier this month.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2021/12/web1_kris-kringle.jpgSanta and Mrs. Claus are pictured handing out candy canes at the Hillsboro Walmart earlier this month. Photo by Jackie Wolgamott
Jolly old elf doesn’t always wear red and white

By Jackie Wolgamott

For The Times-Gazette