But you can call me Santa (“Pere Noel” for the guys at ORPALIS, should they prefer).
For those of you who didn’t speak English at the age when still believing in my existance, “Santa” is not the Latin-derived word to designate a saint woman (like Santa Barbara, Santa Maria or… you know…Santana, ho-ho-ho!).
The name actually comes from the English Saint Nicholas, getting altered in time, especially under the influence the Dutch popular version Sinter Klaas, derived in its turn from Sint Nikolaas.
The early Dutch immigrants brought the name to America, along with their December celebration traditions which, because of being so joyful and merry, got quickly copied by the others and eventually got to a large-scale spread.
It was, as you would call it today, viral.
But not without some inherently added ambiguities so let me try to shed some (candle) light on the subject for you.
Saint Nicholas was born sometime around 280 AD in the then Greece (now southwestern Turkey) city of Patara, an Asia-Minor port on the Mediterranean Sea.
Most accounts seem to agree that his family was very wealthy and that unfortunately, his parents died in an epidemic, leaving the young boy to be raised by his uncle (which apparently was also named Nicholas), bishop of Patara.
At the time Christianity was a somewhat new and still developing religion but due to his natural inclination towards faith and to his pure and honest generosity, Saint Nicholas seemed to perfectly fit it.
So his uncle guided him to quickly become a priest then a bishop of Myra despite being of very young age.
It is a fact that he attended the First Council of Nicaea, a key Christian historic event with major subsequent effects over time as it gathered the most proeminent bishops of the time to establish the canon law.
As for the folklore, there are countless stories, with different versions and subversions on his good deeds, piety and kindness, making him become the most beloved character in Christian Europe of the Middle Ages and remained so even after the Protestant Reformation, mainly due to his popularity among the Dutch in Holland.
Unlike the date of his birth, the date of his death is exactly known, December 6, therefore it became the Saint Nicholas Celebration Day.
Now about Christmas.
As all major astronomical events, the winter Solstice (i.e., the day in the year with the longest night) was identified and celebrated by humans since immemorial times.
Religions appeared then vanished but astronomical events like equinoxes and solstices are fixed so regardless of the to-date religion, they got uninterrupedly celebrated throughout history of mankind with or without various local cultural or religious reasons attached.
In Europe for example (especially on its Central and Northern zones) climate involves sharp differences between seasons, so due to harsh winters, the month of December with the winter solstice day it includes (on the December 21-st or 22-nd) is rather a time to rest.
During autumn crops were harvested and processed while most cattle was slaughtered to both insure food for winter-long period as well as for not consuming precious resources during the winter.
To put it in other words, in December it’s freezing cold with heavy snow outdoors while indoors…well… beverage fermentation is just about finished, there is plenty of meat, vegetables and fruits. So after one year of work a date like December 21-st is simply perfect to start a party, no matter the name you’ll give to it.
So no wonder that Pope Julius I, when looking for a date to assign for the birth of Jesus (yes, the date had to be assigned as it always has been unknown) decided the best option would be a day during the long pagan festival of December and that he would christianize these celebrations.
Which he did and this is how the holiday was established for December 25-th.
Coincidentally, this happened during the living days of Saint Nicholas so shortly after, there were two happy holidays to be celebrated in December: Saint Nicholas Day on December 6-th and Nativity on December 25-th.
“And what about the Winter Solstice Day?”, I can hear some of you asking.
Well, currently it is being largely ignored but have no worries: as I said it is an astronomical event.
So over few thousands years (a time when even I will probably be long gone), it will still be here as it always have been.
And probably having a different nickname too.
But back to my story, this is why there are so many ambiguities on the two dates in December and how they both came to be associated with me in such different ways and under so many different versions.
Although well…there might be yet another reason for the mayhem, a rather financial one, frankly.
Some say I enjoy such huge popularity because of artificially having been made a symbol of commercialism.
Due to some buying frenzy orchestrated and maintained by like almost anyone who has something to sell, they say.
They’ve called me a “brand” and also calculated my brand value: it’s worth 1.6 Trillion USD, the biggest one on Earth.
They even accused me for my clothes having been sponsored by Coca-Cola, as they’re red and white.
This incrimination is not true.
May I say, in my defence, that my red and white coloured outfit was already strongly associated with myself, long before Coca-Cola started their series of advertisements in the 1940’s.
And besides, if this were to be true, you would have called me Fanta not Santa, right?
But OK, for you folks, I will admit that I might be just a little bit of a capitalist: after all I’ve made an agreement with ORPALIS.
I’ve accepted to tell my story here, on their blog but in exchange I will get discounted licenses of GdPicture.NET toolkit editions and plugins, Free Editions of PaperScan and ORPALIS PDF Reducer as well as the free Virtual Barcode Reader and DICOM Viewer from their Labs.
Don’t look at me that way!
I need to build a digital archiving system for the dozens of millions of letters and photos and drawings I receive each year from all over the world.
And I simply cannot handle all these without their magic, even if magic is what I do for a living.
Besides, they always provide free software Editions and the discounted priced licenses on their toolkits are for anyone!
They’re probably trying to copy me on this one but hey, I’m a saint and therefore a forgiver!
Best wishes to all of you folks, be good and be healthy!
Oh, I almost forgot, there’s one more thing. The agreement also has this additional (santa) clause: I am supposed to pass you this message from their part.