Mudcat Café message #853400 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54983   Message #853400
Posted By: CapriUni
24-Dec-02 - 10:17 PM
Thread Name: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
Subject: RE: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
From Penny:

But they do have St Nicholas in the Netherlands, with a rather odd dark creature called Black Peter, I think. So there is a connection with the Dutch. He goes round in a bishop's gear.

Yes, there is. For the Catholic Dutch, Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of their homeland... But those people weren't the ones who emigrated to the Americas, so they weren't the source of the American version of Santa Claus. Besides, the old Dutch version of Saint Nicholas has about as much jollity in him as that Dickens schoolmaster, Creakle. However:

with a rather odd dark creature called Black Peter

Ms. Siefker sees many more similarities between this figure and our modern "Santa Claus" than between "Santa" and Nicholas. After all, he's the one that has a sack slung across his back, and leaps around laughing madly and making funny faces to scare the children. Because the person playing "Black Pete" blackened his face with burnt cork, and often had a chain about his neck held onto by the Saint, some have interpreted him as being the African slave owned by the historical Nicholas who was later canonized.

But she points out numerous bits of evidence that he's the representation of the Wild Man as Smith, whose face is blackened with soot because he tends the Fires of Life -- and that this is the reason Morris dancers blacken their faces with cork (a practice that most probably went back much further in time than the Christian defeat of the Moors), and is also the source of the superstitian that it's good luck to shake hands with a chimney sweep.

(P. L. Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins books, was/is also a student in Pre-Christian European religious beliefs, and she gave Mary Poppins many Goddess attributes -- including a chimney sweep/trickster for a beau).

...And as I'm writing this, I've been getting ideas for how to make an alternative "Santa Claus" to stick on my front lawn next year... as an antidote to all those ubiquitous red-and-white plastic Santas...

Hmmm: A patchwork / rag & tatter coat of mostly greens and goldy-browns (Cut from plastic garbage bags, perhaps?), with a head and face carved from a big foam rubber ball, with a beard and hair made from nylon rope, and a wreath of holly around his head (I'm thinking this has to be impervious to weather if it's to be out on my front lawn for a while) and....

Yeah, I think this is doable! :::Big Grin:::