The New York Knickerbockers helped create the modern Santa
The biggest influence on Santa's modern look and demeanor came more from a popular group of writers who drew inspiration from an Episcopalian saint. The Knickerbockers of New York wanted to reintroduce Saint Nicholas to society to provide a "cultural counterweight for the commercial bustle and democratic misrule of early nineteenth century New York." Contributors to the Saint Nicholas project included 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' author Washington Irving, who wrote a Christmas story about giving and generosity for his fictional 'Bracebridge Hall' series in which he described Santa as a large man in a red suit smoking his favorite pipe. Clement Clarke Moore, a contemporary of Irving's, was inspired by this depiction of Santa for his 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' poem, in which he also described the traditional Santa we know today.
How's Christmas celebrated in the Netherlands & the United Kingdom?
Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, is the side-kick of Sinterklaas, the Dutch St Nicholas, who comes on 5 December, traveling from his home in Spain, on a steamboat called Madrid. Until the 19th Century, Sinterklaas did his own dirty work, bringing good children presents, but taking bad ones away in his sack for re-education and a beating. But in 1850, children's author Jan Schenkman drew him with a black servant, who later became known as Zwarte Piet. It is now Zwarte Piet's job to go down the chimney to deliver presents and catch the less fortunate children. Zwarte Piet has become increasingly controversial in the Netherlands due to a tradition of painting on a clownish black face, which many people find offensive, rightly so!
Christmas is only a recent Family Holiday
Christmas was originally celebrated as an adult form of "trick or treat," but with the "treat" consisting of booze and the threatened "trick" consisting of bodily harm or destruction of property. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" was originally a threat. The ever-popular song was originally sung, loudly and repeatedly, by crowds of rowdy, lower-class servants demanding booze from their masters... or else. "We won't go until we get some!" Up to the 1950s, in the UK, many Christmas customs were restricted to the upper classes and better-off families. The mass of the population had not adopted many of the Christmas rituals that later became general. The Christmas tree was rare. Christmas dinner might be beef — certainly not turkey. In their stockings children might get an apple, orange and sweets. Full celebration of a family Christmas with all the trimmings only became widespread with increased prosperity from the 1950s.
Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from
around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With
fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my
Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In
addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history.
Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even,
over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as
entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings,
photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of
humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us
striving for an improved future.