Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The Krampus Kalendar: X is for XMAS EVE

Every Christmas Eve, children the world over await the arrival of one individual more than any other (or at least one of his many lieutenants) with excited anticipation. The image of the jolly old man with his long white beard, red suit and attendant reindeer couldn’t be more familiar, but where did this admittedly peculiar figure come from? Who is, or was, the real Father Christmas?

Whether you call him Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Sinterklaus or Kris Kringle, the semi-historical, semi-legendary figure who inspired the Christmas gift-giver children know and love today was one Saint Nicholas. And he didn’t come from the North Pole or Lapland. Saint Nicholas came from Turkey (although, of course, turkeys come from Mexico)!

Nicholas was the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Myra in fourth century Byzantine Anatolia. His parents both died when he was still a young man, leaving him a considerable fortune. Shunning his wealth and privileged background to join the Church, Nicholas then made it his mission to give his riches away to those more deserving, and in greater need, than he. The most well-known example of his charity is the one which led to children hanging up their stockings on Christmas Eve for Santa to fill with gifts.

But the image we now have of Father Christmas has its origins in more than just the legendary life of one particular saint. In truth, Father Christmas’s origins go back much further than fourth century Turkey. For the Norsemen of Scandinavia, the season of Yule was as much a dark time ruled over by demons and malevolent spirits. It was best to stay indoors, to escape the baleful gaze of the nocturnal flyer Odin. Odin also brought winter to the world. In this guise he was accompanied by his Dark Helper, a demonic horned creature who punished wrong-doers. This figure would resurface later as Father Christmas’s assistant.

Thor, the Norse god of thunder, may well have had a hand in influencing the development of the Father Christmas myth, for he rode across the sky in an iron chariot pulled by two huge goats, called Tanngrisnir and Tanngnj├│str (in English, Gnasher and Cracker), rather like Santa’s sleigh, with its team of reindeer.

There is also evidence that pagan peoples once worshipped an elemental spirit called Old Man Winter. He too went into the mix that was to eventually produce the figure of Father Christmas.

Father Christmas has an important part to play in 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas, the latest title in the ACE Gamebooks series, and is available to buy now. If you've already bought it and read it, please do post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever.


To find out more about the festive season and its many traditions, order your copy of the Chrismologist's Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts today!

The book is also available in the United States as Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Christmas.

      

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