Ultimate Christmas Quiz – Answer #12

12. Our familiar modern American “Santa Claus” is based on all these earlier figures, EXCEPT for:

a. The English Father Christmas, Charles Dickens’ characters and the Victorian cartoons of Thomas Nast.
b. The Dutch Santa, Sinterklaas or Goedheiligman
c. A de-horned, sanitized, anagram of Satan.
d. Mighty Norse thunder god Thor’s father, Odin
e. St. Nikolaos, 4th-century Greek bishop and patron saint of children.

Note: The original St. Nick was St. Nikolaos of Myra, said to be a 4th century Byzantine bishop, now patron saint of children (as well as archers, sailors, and pawnbrokers, oddly enough). As the Nordic Yule festival became subsumed by Christmas, some aspects of Odin and Old Man Winter also made their way into our celebration. But despite the condemnation from some religious groups, Santa has no connection to Satan apart from closeness in spelling.

         Interestingly, our Santa Claus is a surprisingly modern construction. Tom Flynn’s The Trouble With Christmas argues that the majority of our Christmas tradition today is largely a product of the Victoria era, and most of the traits we associate with Santa actually come from quite a small handful of 19th-century writers.

            Washington Irving (of Headless Horseman fame) actually invented the Dutch Sinterklaas character outright, and inspired Charles Dickens with his Christmas literary inventions, like Santa’s flying sleigh. In the 1880’s, cartoonist Thomas Nast created Santa’s appearance, located his workshop at the North Pole, created his Naughty & Nice list, and many other traits of St. Nick. And of course he continues to evolve and spread into different forms around the world – just like Jesus.

David Fitzgerald is (among other things) a historical researcher and the author of the book NAILED: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (recently voted one of the Top Five Atheist/Agnostic Books of 2010 by About.com)
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