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Santa Claus by Any Other Name Is Still Santa
By Joan Whetzel
Santa Claus is one of the world's most beloved characters, known to deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve. But only if they are good. He has been included in such tales as Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" and Clement Moore's classic poem "The Night Before Christmas," both of which have become holiday rituals for many families. But not everyone calls him Santa Clause. Each country has its own name for this Christmas character, and a few rituals and stories that may be unique.
The Story Behind Santa Claus Traditions
The tradition of Santa Claus's home and workshop being located at the North Pole began in the 1820s. He lives there with his wife, a host of magical elves, and either eight or nine reindeer. According to Clement Moore's poem he had 8 reindeer, with a 9th added later due to weather conditions.
The original stories of Saint Nick derived from Dutch stories of a kindly old man who delivered handmade toys on Christmas eve to needy children who probably would not have otherwise received gifts on Christmas. Over the years, his story has evolved so that children who have behaved well receive presents, while those who have been naughty receive a lump of coal in their stockings.
Some of the rituals surround Santa Claus now include: visits to Santa at a department store or mall, seeing "The Nutcracker" ballet, reading "The Night Before Christmas", setting up a Christmas tree and stockings by the fireplace, writing letters to Santa, and setting out a plate of goodies for Santa - and a few goodies for his reindeer. One recent addition to the Santa Claus rituals makes use of computer and satellite technology to track Santa's travels around the world.
Names for Santa Claus Around the World
Santa Clothes - and Appearance
Santa, and his counterparts in other countries, appears a somewhat chubby man with a white, flowing beard, and a cheerful disposition. In many countries he wears a red velvet suit with white fur around the edges and down the front of his suit coat. His hat is a red pointed cap with fur trim. He also totes a rather large bag with him in which he carries the gifts that he delivers. He wears black boots and a black belt around the middle. This description of Santa was provided by Clement Moore in his poem "The Night Before Christmas."
Santa and the Chimney
According to tradition, Santa makes his way into homes by landing on the roof travelling down the chimney. There has been much speculation as to how he accomplishes this feat when there is a fire in the fireplace and how he gets into houses that have no fireplace or chimney. The answer to both these predicaments is that Santa has access to all kinds of magic around Christmas time. If he can fit all of the world's presents into one bag and make reindeer fly, then he can douse a fire long enough to get down the chimney and back up. And he most certainly has a magical key to let him into any home without a chimney. But these things only work on Christmas Eve.
Letters to Santa
Children love to write letters to Santa Claus at Christmas, and the postal services in every country seems to have no difficulty getting those letters to him in time for his Christmas Eve deliveries. In these letters children can tell Santa how good they've been and list what presents they want for themselves. Some children even let Santa Clause know when someone they love wants or needs something special. Santa always takes special requests like these seriously.
The Sleigh and Reindeer
Clement Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" lists the names of the eight reindeer that Mr. Moore witnessed the night he wrote his poem. Their names are: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. They are harnessed to Santa's sleigh and are able to fly and land on roofs, thanks to Santa's Christmas Eve magic. Later on, around 1939, Santa added an 9th reindeer named Rudolph. Apparently, the North Pole was having some rough weather that year, and Rudolph - with his glowing red nose - made it possible to find his way through the blizzard. A department store chain, Montgomery Ward, heard about the addition and advertised a doll named after Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, along with a song all about his invitation to join Santa's team of reindeer.
Santa's sleigh may appear like any rustic sleigh, but Santa keeps up with technology. He has all the gear he needs to keep him on track with his deliveries as well as to help Rudolph and the other reindeer navigate in any weather conditions. As for the bag full of presents and the flight propulsion, those are a combination of magic and technology. After all, there are more children to deliver presents to than when Santa first started his Christmas Eve deliveries. He needs all the help he can get.
In the United States, the military has an organization called NORAD that keeps track of military movement. But it also keeps track of all air traffic worldwide, including Santa. They have tracked Santa's flight path every Christmas Eve since computers and satellites came into existence. They now share their Santa Tracker with anyone who wants to find out where he is on Christmas Eve. Simply go online and type in NORAD Santa Tracker, on Christmas Eve to find out where he is and how far away he is from your hometown.
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