Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD
We wish all our Christian readers merry and joyous Christmas, but, would also like to share a few facts about Santa Claus.
The receptionist in my office, who is in her thirties, whom I will call a Santa girl, told us that when she was eight years old, she was living in a house with a chimney, in Endicott, New York. She was expecting gifts from Santa Claus again on Christmas Eve, as he had been very generous the previous years and made her very happy with his gifts. She wanted to reciprocate the gesture by writing a letter to Santa. Her letter included some pictures, the details of which she now does not remember. She put the letter by the Christmas tree, for pick up. But, Santa forgot to pick up the delivery on Christmas eve from the Santa girl, or was it her mother who did not pay attention, among all the other celebrations.
She was broken hearted that Santa did not approve of her and started crying. She was hard to console and as adults tried to appease her the secret came out that Santa is not for real.
But, Santa has been real for millions over the centuries and continues to be real for millions more.
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and simply “Santa”, is a figure with legendary, mythical, historical and folkloric origins who, in many western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. The modern figure was derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which, in turn, was part of its basis in hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift giver Saint Nicholas. A nearly identical story is attributed by Greek Orthodox and Byzantine Christian folklore to Saint Basil of Caesarea. Basil’s feast day on January 1 is considered the time of exchanging gifts in Greece. According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
Santa Claus, legendary figure who is the traditional patron of Christmas in the United States and other countries, bringing gifts to children. His popular image is based on traditions associated with Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian saint. Father Christmas fills the role in many European countries.
The Dutch are credited with transporting the legend of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) to New Amsterdam (now New York City), along with the custom of giving gifts and sweets to children on his feast day, December 6. The current depiction of Santa Claus is based on images drawn by cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly beginning in 1863.
Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – sometimes with spectacles – wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots (images of him rarely have a beard with no moustache). This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement Clarke Moore‘s 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, children’s books and films.
Let me confirm some of the details in Encyclopedia Britannica, as well:
Santa Claus is said to live at the North Pole with his wife, where he spends the year making toys with the help of his elves. There he receives letters from children asking for Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve he loads his sleigh with toys and flies around the world, drawn by eight reindeer, stopping at each child’s house; he slides down the chimney and leaves the gifts, refreshing himself with the milk and cookies left for him by the household’s children.
According to a tradition which can be traced to the 1820s, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a large number of magical elves, and nine (originally eight) flying reindeer. Since the 20th century, in an idea popularized by the 1934 song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town“, Santa Claus has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior (“naughty” or “nice”) and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the well-behaved children in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.
Similar theme and suggested reading: This Is How Much Oil It Would Take to Fly Santa’s Sleigh
The tradition of Santa Claus entering dwellings through the chimney is shared by many European seasonal gift-givers. In pre-Christian Norse tradition, Odin would often enter through chimneys and fireholes on the solstice. In the Italian Befana tradition, the gift-giving witch is perpetually covered with soot from her trips down the chimneys of children’s homes. In the tale of Saint Nicholas, the saint tossed coins through a window, and, in a later version of the tale, down a chimney when he finds the window locked. In Dutch artist Jan Steen‘s painting, The Feast of Saint Nicholas, adults and toddlers are glancing up a chimney with amazement on their faces while other children play with their toys. The hearth was held sacred in primitive belief as a source of beneficence, and popular belief had elves and fairies bringing gifts to the house through this portal. Santa’s entrance into homes on Christmas Eve via the chimney was made part of American tradition through Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas where the author described him as an elf.
Numerous parallels have been drawn between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic peoples prior to their Christianization. Since many of these elements are unrelated to Christianity, there are theories regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions, surviving in various forms into modern depictions of Santa Claus.
Odin was sometimes recorded, at the native Germanic holiday of Yule, which was celebrated at the same time of year as Christmas now is, as leading a great hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland, thePoetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus’s reindeer. Further, Odin was referred to by many names in Skaldic poetry, some of which describe his appearance or functions. These include Síðgrani,Síðskeggr, Langbarðr, (all meaning “long beard”) and Jólnir (“Yule figure”).
According to some traditions, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or candy. This practice still survives in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and parts of France and became associated with Saint Nicholas since Christianization. In other countries it has been replaced by the hanging of stockings at the chimney in homes.
Originating from pre-Christian Alpine traditions and influenced by later Christianization, the Krampus is represented as a Companion of Saint Nicholas. Traditionally, some young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December and particularly on the evening of December 5 and roam the streets frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells.
Let me handle Eucharist briefly by linking an article: Religion and science: Eucharist.
Trinity also originated in Pagan traditions as none of the Jewish prophets ever mentioned it and it finds no mention in the Old Testament, whatsoever. In Psalms of David, we find the Prophet David glorifying God, Psalm after Psalm, without knowing even an iota about Jesus, may peace be on him.
William Lane Craig is one of the leading Christian apologists and it is useful for the Unitarians to have his confession, which I have paraphrased a little, to keep it short: ‘If we Examine Trinity, through the lens of the Old Testament, it is not Believable!’
The Rabbi Tovia Singer makes a good point about absence of Trinity in the Old Testament and Prof. William Lane Craig has no genuine answer as to why God confused and not give the complete picture of Divinity to the Jewish prophets for 2000 years before Jesus, may peace be on him. However, William Lane Craig, an expert and an articulate debater that he is, weaves a verbose response of confusing and not defined terms, to keep those who are indoctrinated into Triune understanding bewildered! The fact of the matter is that the term Trinity is not mentioned even in the New Testament.
For 2000 years before Jesus, the Jews never thought of Trinity, as in Craig’s own words there was no reason to, going by the Old Testament. So, how can Trinity be legitimate if none of the Old Testament Prophets preached it. Mind you, the Old Testament makes 75% of the Bible and the New Testament mounts to nothing if it is not preceded by the Old Testament and that was the reason, why the Christian Fathers included it in the canon of the Bible.
The Unitarians build their case on what is central and fundamental and explain away allegoric and peripheral in light of that and the Trinitarians do the exact opposite and no wonder their teachings give rise to countless contradictions and absurdities, some of which are highlighted in the articles linked below. One I would mention here, a literal son, who is co-eternal with his Father, as the Trinitarians will have us believe, is logically and philosophically, simply silly. The Father has to at some point in time father the literal son and predate him, otherwise the son is literally not a son! Additionally, even if Jesus was magically eternal before, when he died for three days and three nights by the Trinitarian, childish counting, he is not eternal anymore. The understanding of what the debaters are doing is certainly in light of a profound verse of the Holy Quran, from Sura Aal-e-Imran, as the Rabbi focuses on central and fundamental and William Lane Craig, like any other Trinitarian, obsesses over what is ‘susceptible of different interpretations.’ The Quran says:
He (Allah) it is Who has sent down to thee (Muhammad) the Book; in it there are verses that are decisive in meaning — they are the basis of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue such thereof as are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and seeking wrong interpretation of it. And none knows its right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding. (Al Quran 3:8)
The Trinitarians choose to obsess over Jesus and God the Father, but seldom or infrequently trouble the Holy Ghost. In their obsession about the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Trinitarian apologists choose to read the Triune God, every time the word ‘God’ is mentioned in the Old Testament, which is hundreds of times, but, for 2000 years before Jesus, none of the Jews ever read the word in Triune terms and understood only one God, who is God the Father, in the later Trinitarian Christian understanding.
Additional readings about Trinity and Jesus’ alleged divinity
On the subject of lack of logic and rationality in the doctrine of Trinity and its origin in Pagan tradition, I will link a few articles and portion of documentary
Some of the claims made in this documentary Zeitgeist by Peter Joseph, will need further investigation, but, many of the claims are self evident. This year Pope Benedict XVI, himself acknowledged that many of the details of the nativity scene were added centuries later.