Mudcat Café message #853731 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54983   Message #853731
Posted By: GUEST,Nerd
26-Dec-02 - 01:41 PM
Thread Name: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
Subject: RE: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
In Pennsylvania communities, we had a tradition called Belsnickling, derived from the Pelznichol, which was something like English mumming. Belsnicklers were dressed in wools and furs, and came to the house demanding food and drink. It was, as someone commented above, very much like Halloween.

In fact, trick or treat and caroling are both variants of a common seasonal custom of quetes--i.e., traveling around the countryside "begging" for food. People were oblgated to give food, and sometimes threatened if they did not give any. Think of the verses to we wish you a merry christmas: "now bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it right here!/we won't go until we get some, so brng it right here, etc. These are demands, not polite requests, much like "trick or treat!" In colonial Massachusetts, Christmas was outlawed, partly because the puritans dominated, but partly also because carollers smashed windows and attacked houses with rocks if they were not appeased.

Another great corruption of PA German traditions is the name kris kringle. This was derived from the protestant PA Dutch (which in Pennsylvania means German), who did not like the idea of a saint bringing gifts. They instead claimed that the Christ Child ("Krist Kindle") visited houses. This got imported into the Santa legend as Santa's name!

It is too simplistic to say the Santa "originated" in Pelznichol, however. Remember, just like the Dutch in NY, the PA Germans were protestants: Lutheran, Amish, Mennonite, and many other sects. They were equally opposed to saint worship. Also, the English Father Christmas and other traditions were heavily influential, as was the historical Character of St. Nicholas who was, as someone hinted above, a Bishop in what is now Turkey, but became a popular patron saint for many communities. Nevertheless, the "wild man" and "green man" themes are clarly part of Santa's history and his appeal!