Legends and Creatures of the Holiday Season
Hi! My Name is Lee Ryder and you might know me from my debut book Broken Earth. My husband likes to call me the queen of useless knowledge. I’m your best friend playing a trivia game that’s for sure!
Christmas is one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love the music, the lights, the general feel of the season, and always always going home and being with my family. I’m so pleased that Ashley asked me to take over her blog. So here goes.
Fabulous Legends and Creatures of the Holiday Season
Tis the season to be merry and bright, to sing and to cheer, and put out your lights. However, did you know there are so many legends that really create the beauty of Christmas around us.
First, there are those Christmas lights. Some people have crazy lights outside, those that you could see from the moon! Did you ever wonder the story is behind them? The tradition itself goes to the lighting of candles on trees in Germany. In 1881, electric strands of lights were used to light trees during the reign of Queen Victoria and were often called fairy lights.
The first electrically lit Christmas tree was a development of an associate of Thomas Edison. The tree had 80 red, white, and blue specially made bulbs glowing on it. Throughout the years the bulbs shape, size, color, and kind have changed but they are a staple at Christmas. My fondest memory is of the bubble Christmas lights we used on our tree when I was growing up.
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back all the way to 280 AD in Turkey. His name was St. Nicholas and he was believed to have given all his worldly goods away and traveled the countryside helping the sick and poor. Over the course of years, he became known as the patron saint of children and sailors.
In the late 17th century, Sinter Klaaus, which is the Dutch nickname for Saint Nicholas, came to New York through woodcarvings given out at historical meetings by John Pintard.
In 1809, Sinter Klaaus was mentioned in Washington Irving’s The History Of New York as the patron saint of New York.
In 1841, the first shopping mall Santa was seen. It was a life size model of Santa Claus that children flocked to see in a department store. By 1890, stores were offering a peek at a real life Santa Claus to bring in shoppers during the holiday season.
The ninth reindeer Rudolph was born over two hundred years after his eight other counterparts. In 1939, Robert L May who was a copywriter for Montgomery Ward Stores penned the poem that became legend. He told the story of that shiny-nosed reindeer that saved a foggy Christmas for the sole purpose of bringing more people to shop at his store.
Thomas Nast was the first person to draw what Santa looked like.
Santa’s evil counterpart was the Christmas Devil Krampus. His job is to punish the children on Santa’s naughty list. He’s known by many names, including: Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf, and Krampus. He is always seen as a devil like creature with long horns and a pointy tail.
The story of Santa’s Elves was originally written by Louisa May Alcott in 1856 in her unpublished, never finished book “The Christmas Elves.” In 1873, you could see them in woodcuttings by Godey’s Lady’s Book. They were also depicted in The House of Santa Claus a Christmas Fairy Show For Sunday Schools created by Austin Thompson in 1876. They are always seen as diminutive creatures that help make the gifts for the good children of the world.
Children were told if they want to become one of Santa’s elves they had to be good and do well in school…then who knows.
The Idea of leaving cookies and milk for Santa Claus came from the Medieval ‘paradise tree’ which was a tree that was put up with fruit and wafers on it. When the paradise tree merged with Christianity food and wafers were still put out with the tree. Santa was believed to snack on these items to keep the tree in shape.
The star on the Christmas tree is said to be put there to remember the star that hung over the stable in Bethlehem where the baby Jesus lay in the manger.
I’ve always been told that candy canes are the shape of Joseph’s staff that he used when they journeyed to Bethlehem. The true story behind them is of a choirmaster in 1670 who wanted to keep the children quiet while practicing the Christmas nativity. He asked a local candymaker to make candy sticks for the children and in order to justify giving them to the children he asked they be bent at the top to remind children of the shepherds crooks as they journeyed to Bethlehem. He also asked that the color be white to symbolize the sinless life of Jesus. The red is Jesus’ blood.
The first candy cane recipe was published in 1844 but candy canes were not mentioned in association with Christmas until 1876.
The celebrating of the new year dates back to 2000 BC in Mesopotamia. It was celebrated around March first, which was the vernal equinox. The first time the New Year was celebrated on January first was 153 BC in Rome. In 46 BC, January first was listed on the Julian Calendar as the New Year.
All in all the holidays are steeped deeply in tradition, superstition, and religious beliefs. If you celebrate with Krampus and Siinterklaus, or if you see Santa at the mall, I hope you have the most beautiful and bright of holidays. Be safe, Be happy, and be blessed.