Father Christmas is unique in that he is a pop culture icon who instantly recognizable across the world and yet didn’t he didn’t come out of a book, a cartoon or a movie. Whether you call him Santa Claus, Papa Noël, Kris Kringle or even Old Saint Nick, Father Christmas is ubiquitous throughout European history. This iconic character has even made it as far abroad as Australia, America, Japan and Brazil in recent centuries – indeed, in 2015 the entire world knows Santa. The question is does the world know where Santa came from?
Unlike Captain America, Batman and other childhood icons, Father Christmas was once a real person. Nicholas of Myra, as he was known until his death in December 343 AD, was the man behind the legend of Saint Nick. Nicholas of Myra was a Turkish monk who gave away his inherited wealth to travel the countryside, tending to the sick and poor. The most famous legend of Nicholas’ deeds is probably the story of how he saved three sisters from being sold into slavery and prostitution. He paid their dowries and helped them on the way to marrying the people they wanted to marry. This gesture made him famous across the continent, and by the time he died Nicholas was a veritable hero of the people.
This level of fame lasted for over 1000 years, with a Yuletide ‘boy bishop’ ceremony popular throughout the medieval era. In this ceremony the church youths performed the functions of their elders, effectively running their parishes for the day. 300 years later during the Renaissance era in Europe, Sinter Klaus (also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker) had become the patron saint and protector of more peoples than any other. However, his popularity among the people had started to dwindle, causing the church to reinvent Saint Nicholas slightly, naming him Father Christmas, Père Noël and Kris Kringle across the continent.
While Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, prostitutes, bakers and even Greece, Father Christmas is most certainly focused on being the patron saint of children. His reinvention in the 1600s focused on his generosity, becoming the go-to legend for boosting Christmas cheer. His old monk’s habits were swapped for the fur-lined blue, green and white robes that were popular with the then-modern people. This mysterious pop-icon would then visit Europe’s poorest children, leaving them small gifts of food, sweets or money to reward them for a year of hard work (if you’re looking for yule tide ideas for Christmas then a gift generator may do the trick to help choose what is needed in this day and age vs the last 2000 years). This was around the time that Father Christmas’ tradition of leaving coal for naughty children came into being, though the evidence suggesting why this happened is scant at best. The general assumption is simply that it was a scare tactic to encourage good behavior as the last thing that a kid would want is a lump of dirty coal when they could be getting sweets and money.
This version of Father Christmas endured for several centuries, right up until the 1900’s when Santa underwent yet another wardrobe change. Some people attribute Santa’s current reds and whites to the fact that these are ecclesiastic colors, though scholars argue that these aren’t the colors that pious Saint Nicholas of Myra would have worn. The generally held belief here is that Coca-Cola redrew Santa in their own vision in the 1930s, and the weight of the company’s advertising has restructured the way we see Santa as a result.
When you look back over the last 1700 years, Saint Nick certainly has come a long way – and we’re not just talking about his move from Turkey to Lapland/the North Pole. While there are many fictionalized parts to the Santa story – the flying reindeer and the sleigh for example were invented in the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (the one that starts with “‘Twas the night before Christmas…”) – the legend is certainly based on fact. Even to this day Saint Nicholas of Myra is revered across the world for his generosity and altruism. Though he may not be alive and well today, his memory has inspired generosity for almost two millennia. It almost makes you wonder how much Santa will have changed by the 2000th anniversary of his death in 2343. Will the sleigh endure, or will Santa roll with the times and find a more conventional way of air travel? Only time will tell.
Image via Susanne Nilsson
It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but experts are already arguing over what will be the hottest toys of the holiday season. Many have their money on the remote-controlled BB-8 that can be controlled with a smartphone. All experts agree that anything Star Wars is a pretty safe bet when it comes to the most popular toys of the season. That being said, if I was a kid, I’d be all about this amazing Star Wars sled for sale on Bonanza.com. It not only looks cool, but it can also be controlled with handlebars, making it a lot easier to operate than classic sleds. The fact that it’s only $100 also makes it a much more practical toy than many of the other options out there.
Heck, I only wish it had a higher carrying capacity than 150 pounds so I could use it even now as an adult. If I could just lose a few dozen pounds I’d be good to go.
(This post has been sponsored by Bonanza.com, though I really do endorse this awesome product)
OK, technically they aren’t actually gingerbread, but these graham cracker dice are a great way to turn your gingerbread castle adventure into a full on holiday roleplaying game.
Obviously, the process is pretty simple as it just involves gluing graham crackers together with icing and then drawing on numbers, but following Our Nerd Home’s instructions for cutting it into the right shapes is critical if you want to make anything besides a six-sided die (and where’s the fun in that).
With Halloween and all of its dark and ghostly delights fast approaching, we got to thinking about the spookiest holiday destinations in Europe.
After all, what could be a better way of indulging your love of all things spooky than booking a weekend in a haunted house or doing a tour around the most haunted locations in Europe? So, we took a look at just some of the places you could visit and be very scared by this Halloween. Just don’t look behind you!
The Famous Catacombs in Paris
OK, so you can’t stay in them exactly, but you can book a holiday in Paris and go and visit one of the most awe-inspiring tourist attractions in the French capital. The Paris Catacombs are basically a huge maze of crypts and tunnels that wind their way under the streets of the city, where the dead went to rest after the city ran out of space for more traditional cemeteries. The famous Paris Opera House is also worth visiting, not just because it’s utterly fabulous, but also because it’s the very real place Gaston Leroux based his story of the Phantom of the Opera – a legend that has captured imaginations for over 100 years. Perhaps the masked ghost is still lurking down there, hiding in the vast underground lagoon that sits below the Opera House…
Image by Joseph Holmes
Spain’s Faces in the Floor
If you’re into ghost stories then you will definitely have heard about Belmez de la Moraleda. The unassuming street in Spain has become extremely famous due to the scary faces that have been manifesting in the floor. They began in 1971 and have been photographed frequently. It was found that there were human remains beneath the floor, which were then removed but it’s a very evocative place to visit. If you’re on holiday in Spain this Autumn, and particularly over Halloween, consider making the journey, it doesn’t have to be an expensive diversion either. It’s easily reachable from various resorts like Malaga, so a bit of searching online should come up with cheap flights to Malaga and a hire car to get you to your haunted destination. Just try not to be too frightened!
Image by Juan de la Cruz Moreno Balboa
Glamis Castle – The Most Haunted Castle in Scotland
Scotland is pretty famous for revelling in its many haunted houses and spooky places to visit so you will be spoiled for choice if you’ve decided to head up north this Halloween. But for one of the best, and most notorious, places to stay, try Glamis Castle. It’s a fabulous Gothic castle, which looks like it has come straight out of the Addam’s Family, and according to all the tourist guides of the region, is bound to give you the willies should you be brave enough to spend a night within its scary walls.
Image by Diego’s Sideburns
Visit the Real Dracula in Romania
You can’t go to haunted places in Europe and miss out on the residence of one of the most notoriously scary people ever. Vlad the Impaler is the inspiration for Stoker’s Dracula and his place of residence was Poienari Castle. In fact, it’s also the place where he tortured so many enemies to death by calmly popping them on stakes and then holding a feast while listening to their cries of agony. Soak up the atmosphere of the castle and nearby Lake Snagov, which is where he is thought to be buried.
Image by Richard Mortel
Follow the Footsteps of Jack the Ripper in London
London’s East End is where the infamous and famous serial killer known as Jack the Ripper stalked his prey in the late 19th century. The mystery of his identity has never been solved and his story is grimly fascinating. You can book on to a guided walk which will show you every murder spot and all the other venues with which he is associated. You never know, maybe you’ll be inspired enough to solve the mystery once and for all!
Image by Jamie Durant
Know of any other great haunted destinations worth visiting? Feel free to share your stories in the comments!
You may not have known today is World Turtle Day, but now that you know, don’t you just want to hug a turtle? Well, if you’re terrified of salmonella or if you just can’t find a turtle within hugging distance, these 20 cute turtle pics are the next best thing.
Only if you’re a traitorous rebel scum.
Oh Tard, you’re so adorable, and now you’re one full year old. Congratulations cutie!
If I went to a party where this was on center display, I think I’d punch anyone who tried to eat a Peep.
Wanna show your favorite geek that you get them and that you care? Then try one of these awesome Valentine’s Day cards spotted on The Mary Sue.