Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Faces of Santa Claus

It seems that Santa Claus has been with us a long, long time, continually changing as people shared their traditions, adding and discarding as their societies changed. As you scroll down the page, you are moving backwards in time, seeing the many faces of Santa Claus that contributed to the Santa Claus that we know and love today.

Santa Claus

Appearance: Full white beard, fat, jovial, ruddy cheeked
Clothing: White fur trimmed red Jacket, red cap and red trousers, dark boots
Travel: Reindeer sleigh
Customs: Comes down the chimney and fills stockings
Companions: Elves. Mrs. Claus
Home: Nast established Santa's official residence at the North Pole in 1885 when he sketched two children looking at a map of the world and tracing Santa's journey from the North Pole to the United States. The following year, the American writer, George P. Webster, took up this idea, explaining that Santa's toy factory and "his house, during the long summer months, was hidden in the ice and snow of the North Pole"

Pere Noel

Clothing: Long red hooded robe, edged with white fur. His presents are carried not in a sack, but in a basket on his back.
Customs: Children put out shoes in front of the fireplace
Gifts: Candy, fruit, nuts and small toys are hung on the le sapin de noël: Christmas tree, For some good children, he gifts twice; once on December 6th, St. Nicholas Eve (December 6th), and once on Christmas Eve, December 24th.
Companions: Is accompanied by Père Fouettard, a sinister figure dressed in black, who gives out spankings to bad children.

Kriss Kringle

Known As: Christ Kindl (Christ-child). The German name of the Christ Child is Christkind
Appearance: His messenger is a young child with a golden crown who holds a tiny "Tree of Light."
Customs: Brings the gifts of the Christ Child.


Known As: De Goede Sint - The Friendly Saint
Appearance: A kind and wise old man with a white beard
Clothing: White dress, red cloak, a crosier
Travel: Rides the skies and roofs of houses on his white horse
Home: Spain
Customs: Visits on his birthday, December 5th or 6th
Gifts: Various gifts, if you were good
Companions: Zwarte Piet ("Black Peter"), also called Black Jacks
Notes: The Black Jacks gather information about your behavior for the year. If you were good, you get presents.. If you were bad, the Black Jacks will beat you with their rods or put you in a bag and take you back to Spain

Knecht Ruprecht (meaning Servant Rupert)

Known As:
Black Peter, Pelznickle, Aschen (Ash Nicholas), Rider of the White Horse
Appearance: Fur clad, blackened with soot
Travel: Traveled with St. Nicholas
Visits: Delivered the presents down the chimney for St. Nicholas
Customs: Carried a sack of ashes as well as a bundle of switches
Notes: He was called Black Peter because he delivered the presents down the chimney for St. Nicholas and became blackened with soot. Over time, Knecht Ruprecht and St. Nicholas merged to form Ru Klaus (Rough Nicholas) because of his rugged appearance, Aschen Klaus (meaning Ash Nicholas) because he carried a sack of ashes as well as a bundle of switches and Pelznickle (Furry Nicholas)

Saint Nicholas

Appearance: A kindly saint, not overweight
Clothing: Wears the robes of a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.
Customs: Hands out presents to the children. Children also put their shoes in front of the fireplace to be filled with candy and presents by morning.
Travels; Sometimes travels with a donkey.
Companions: Angels that help St. Nicholas to keep his book of good and bad deeds and help to protect the chldren fom Krampus, the Devil, Père Fouettard who accompany St. Nicholas and punish bad children.


Companions: Joulupukki has a wife, Joulumuori - Old Lady Christmas
Known As: Yule Goat or Christmas Goat
Appearance: Wears warm red clothes and uses a walking stick
Travel: Travels in a sleigh driven by a number of reindeer (but the reindeer don't fly)
Home: Korvatunturi, Lapland, Finland
Customs: Knocks on the front door during the Christmas eve celebration. When he comes in, his first words are traditionally "Are there (any) nice children here?"
Notes: In an old Finnish tradition, people dressed in goat hides, (as nuuttipukki), and went around from house to house after Christmas eating leftover food.


Known As: Nisse, Tonttu
Appearance: A small, elderly man (varies from a few inches to about half the height of an adult man), often with a full beard. He is not overweight.
Clothing: Dresses in the everyday clothing of a farmer - typically attired in grey woolen clothes, a red cap. Later turned into the white-bearded, red-capped friendly figure associated with Christmas when a poem illustrated by Jenny Nyström was created.
Travel: Sometimes rides in a sleigh drawn by reindeer or walks around with his sack. His reindeer don't fly
Home: In Sweden he's thought to live in a forest nearby, in Denmark he lives on Greenland, and in Finland he lives in Lapland
Customs: He doesn't come down the chimney at night, but through the front door, delivering the presents directly to the children
Companions: Often with a horse or cat, or riding on a goat or in a sled pulled by a goat

Grandfather Frost

Known As: Ded Moroz
Clothing: Long fur coat covered by bright beautiful cloth (blue or red) trimmed in fur
Travel: Troika of white horses
Home: Grandfather Frost lives in the town Veliky Ustug
Customs: Visits on New Year
Gifts: Puts on a New Year party for children as well as bringing them gifts
Companions: Always accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow girl)

Yule King

Known As: Lord of Misrule, King Winter, Winter King, Holly King, Yule Spirit, King Frost
Appearance: A jolly giant, has a well-fed belly, and sports a burly beard
Clothing: Fur hat or crown, he wears red or green, and a crown of leaves. The Lord of Misrule was a red or green-robed jester
Customs: The Yule King visits at firesides. As Lord of Misrule, he presides over the Yuletide festivities

Father Christmas

Known As: Old Winter, Old Christmas
Appearance: Well-nourished bearded man, typified the spirit of good cheer
Clothing: Long, green, fur-lined robe, representing the return of spring, fur-lined hood (not a cap)
Customs: An elder man from the community dressed in furs and visited each dwelling. At each house, in the guise of "Old Winter" he would be plied with food and drink before moving on to the next. It was thought he carried the spirit of the winter with him, and that the winter would be kind to anyone hospitable to Old Winter.
Notes: Father Christmas did not bear gifts until he merged with the American version of Santa Claus in the late 1800s

Yule God

Real Name: Thor, a Norse God
Temperament: Cheerful and friendly, never harming humans but rather helping and protecting them
Appearance: Elderly man, heavy build, long white beard
Travel: Chariot pulled by two white goats, Cracker and Gnashwer
Home: In the Northland, among icebergs
Customs: Comes down the chimney - visits in front of the fireplace
Symbols: The color red, fire


Real Name: Odin, the chief of the Norse Gods
Known As: Pelznickle, meaning Furry Nicholas, and as Rider of the White Horse
Appearance: Old, mysterious man with a beard, may be shown with one eye missing
Clothing: Long blue hooded cloak, carrying a staff and sometimes a satchel of bread
Travel: Rides Sleipnir, a flying horse with eight legs
Customs: Children leave straw filled shoes by the chimney to feed Sleipnir
Gifts: He would sometimes leave the bread as a gift at poor homesteads
Companions: Either a Raven or Crow
Notes: The Vikings believed that Odin visited Earth during Jultid (Yuletide) on Sleipnir

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