Mudcat Café message #853201 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54983   Message #853201
Posted By: CapriUni
24-Dec-02 - 02:13 PM
Thread Name: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
Subject: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
A few years ago, I came upon a wonderful little book in my public library called Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men by Phyllis Siefker, in which she makes the following arguments:

1) Contrary to popular American Folklore, the American version of Santa Claus was not imported by the Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (Later, New York). Those settlers were Protestant, and wouldn't have touched a saint with a ten foot pole, unless maybe they wanted to beat him up with it... The association of "Saint Nicholas" with the American Dutch came about in the aftermath of the Revolution, when different social-political clubs rose up centered around various "home" cultures... the Scottish settlers had the "Saint Andrews" society, the Welsh, "Saint David's"... and the Duch had "Saint Nicholas's"

2) That the first appearance on American soil of a jovial, noise-making, raucus, midnight visitor who distributed gifts to children (if they'd been good, that is) was brought in by the German settlers to Pensylvania, in the figure of Pelznichol (or "Furry Nicholas")

3) that if you trace the various cultural influences that created Pelznichol back to their source, you would find the ancient Pagan figure of the Wild Man -- the personification in human form of the wild forces of Nature itself -- capable of emmense generosity and bounty, but also of terrible, terrifying power. And indeed, Ms. Siefker recounts some of the earliest Christmas traditions and beliefs that seem to us to belong more in the season of Halloween than Christmas: That if the children were good, they would be given toys and treats, but if they were bad, they'd be put into that great sack, and carried away until next Christmas, or worse -- eaten. (When I first read the discriptions of these practices, I was horrified -- but then I remembered how much modern kids enjoy being scared by monsters at Halloween, and I imagine that the kids of our ancestors were not much different).

In any case, this all got me thinking: If "Santa Claus" is really a personification of Nature itself, it puts a whole new spin on the Naughty vs. Nice thing.

So "Santa Claus" really can see you when you're sleeping, and knows when you're awake, because he is everywhere the wind blows -- in the rocks and rivers, and laughing in the branches of the trees. But, really, I dont think he cares so much whether or not you cry or pout or shout now and then, but whether you're kind, and generous, and of good humor in the face of adversity, whether or not, in other words, you participate in the cycle of give and take or whether you try and stop the cycle by keeping everything for yourself...

So, like that Fraggle Rock* song says:

"When it's nice and bright,
And it brings delight,
Let your heart choose right,
Gotta pass it on.

When it rolls real good,
Like a rollie should,
Then it's understood,
Gonna pass it on."

*(From Episode 76 -- The Pefect Blue Rollie, first aired February 17, 1986, written by David Young)