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December 6th: St. Nick’s Day
Father Christmas, St. Nickolas, Kris Kringle and Santa Claus have ancient traditional roots in America, England, Germany, Greece and Holland where he is known as Sinterklaas. Father Christmas is typically a jovial, kind and compassionate figure although in In Austro-Bavarian folklore, Santa is celebrated as Krampus, a"half-goat, half-demon” figure, who visits “bad” children during the Christmas season in order to punish them, often in quite frightening ways.
December 6th is St. Nicholas Day, celebrated in our family when I was a child, as a cookie baking and decorating day to ready packages for relatives and neighbors. This day was also dedicated to the of making of seemingly endless strings of popcorn and cranberry chains for the Christmas tree. My mother was a great proponent of putting the dry, needle dropping, post holiday tree in the back yard with the popcorn and cranberry garlands still in place, for what she referred to as ‘the winter bird feast’.
In Germany and the Netherlands, the pagan roots of Christmas embody a seasonal edginess in the form of supernatural and ghostly Yule figures (think Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol) and associations with Odin or Jólnir, (Yule Figure ) or Langvaror (Long Beard). Scholars of folklore attest to the fact that modern Santa Claus figures are rooted in the Odin archetype, the old, cloaked and hooded figure riding the mid-winter sky on his horse, Sleipnir, the Gift Bringer of the North, visiting his people with well earned presents.
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