There is a belief that shaman leaders and Winter Solstice celebrations of tribes long ago were the roots of future Santas &Christmas traditions. Among his tribal duties at Winter Solstice, a shaman was required to return the sun, (with a bit of magic!); punish the bad & reward the good; and lead celebrations with feasting and gift giving in honour of/or to appease the many pagan gods. Christianity redirected some of these rituals to honour the belief in one God.
Some characters who may be considered descendants of early shamans would be: Germany’s scary ‘Knecht Ruprecht’; and ‘Pelznickel’; and ‘La Befana’,the beloved Christmas witch of Italian households.
Shaman: 16" (40 cm) - $225
Shaman: 28" (71 cm) - $425 (by order only)
The kind, beloved 4th. C. Bishop of Myra (Turkey), was revered across Europe for his benevolence and miraculous deeds.
By the year 1100, Nicholas became one of the most revered saints and on Dec. 6, the anniversary of his death, he was honoured by gift giving & feasting. This also was the time when 'supernatural' gift-bringing began, rather than the ritual of children begging for gifts from door to door. St Nicholas would mysteriously enter homes on the Eve of St. Nicholas even through barred windows! Secular assistants to St.Nicholas, such as the 'Dark Helpers' Knecht Ruprecht or Pelznickel often would accompany him.
This practice was discouraged at the end of the 16th century by the Protestant Reformation in Germany when Christkindl became the gift-bringer replacement on Christmas Eve rather than on December 5, St. Nicholas Eve.
Many people of Dutch heritage continue the St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas) celebrations to this day with the saint being assisted by Zwarte Piet (BlackPeter).
St. Nicholas: 16" (40.5 cm) - $225
St. Nicholas: 28" (71 cm) - $425 (by order only)
This intimidating character, who first appeared in a German play in 1668, was one of the secular 'Dark Helpers' of Christkindl after the Protestant Reformation. Since the image of the angelic Christkindl did not frighten children into good behaviour, a menacing character carrying switches, such as Knecht Ruprecht, was just what was needed. He questioned the parents on their childrens' behaviour, leaving goodies for the deserving ones and a switch for use on naughty ones. His very appearance frightened the young children.
He is sometimes identified with other 'Dark Helpers' such as Pelznickel, (Nicholas in Furs) or Ru Klaas, (Rough Nicholas). Some tales have him carrying a sack of coal for the hearth fires or to leave for bad children.
The Nazi campaign to be rid of a Christian Christmas during the Second World War, favoured Knecht Ruprecht over Santa Claus (der Weihnachtsmann), identifying him with the Nordic pagan god 'Wotan'
Knecht Ruprecht: 16" (40.5 cm) - $225
Knecht Ruprecht: 28" (71 cm) - $425 (by order only)
This stern German character, also identified as 'Ru Klaas' (Rough Nicholas), 'Belsnickel' and 'Aschenklas' (Nicholas in Ashes), dressed in dark or shaggy clothing or all in furs or skins, was a secular replacement for St. Nicholas in Germany after the Protestant Reformation; a time when honouring saints was supposed to be banned.
The dour character, was introduced to the Middle American colonies by 19th. century German immigrants. Until late in the century, he would visit German households in Baltimore and Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve, carrying a bundle of switches for naughty children and treats for good ones. Even the good children were afraid that they might not have been good enough! Sometimes he accompanied St. Nicholas or Christkindl who were much more lenient. He was sometimes associated with 'Knecht Ruprecht'.
Pelznickel: 16" (40.5 cm) - $225
Pelznickel: 28" (71 cm) - $425 (by order only)
The gift-bringer replacing St. Nicholas after the Protestant Reformation was the Christ child. This figure, of course, could not be personified in Christmas pageants so a new figure representing the Christ child was created, 'Christkindl' (Christ child in English). She was an angelic-like figure all in white, with or without wings. In some tales she accompanies Weihnachtsmann, assisting him with gift-bringing; others believed she traveled alone.
Christkindl's gentle appearance was not a threat to misbehaving children; therefore she required the assistance of the 'Dark Helpers': Knecht Ruprecht of Germany, Krampus and Cert from Central Europe among others.
When Santa couldn't make it to the troops in the First World War at Christmas time, Christkindl came as a substitute.
In North America, by mid 19th century, the mispronunciation of 'Christkindl' led to another name for Santa; 'Kris Kringle'.
Christkindl: 9" (23 cm) - $70
Christkindl:14" (35 cm) - $175 (by order only)
Upon Holland's release from Spanish rule during the 16th century, it seemed politically fitting to the Dutch to have a Moorish servant dressed in Medieval Spanish attire, as a servant of St. Nicholas named Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). He would toss pepernoten (peppernuts) and speculaas (ginger cookies) to the good boys and girls. However, he carried a bundle of switches for the naughty ones, plus a large sack in which to carry them off to Spain! Many people of Dutch heritage, to this day, associate Zwarte Piet with St. Nicholas on Dec. 5th., St. Nicholas Eve.
This kind Italian lady emerged in Italy during the 17th century trend of 'replacing St. Nicholas. Her legend describes her as an old woman too busy with her housework to accompany the Magi in search of the manger. Later, feeling remorseful, she loaded a basket of gifts and fruit and set out to find the Christ child without success. Thereafter, known as 'the Good Christmas Witch', she travels on the Eve of Epiphany, January 5, giving gifts to good boys and girls and coal to the naughty ones. A broom is her mode of transportation, upon which she swoops down the chimneys!
During the Second World War, Benito Mussolini chose to be associated with his nation's gift-bringer and was known as "the fascist Befana".
La Befana: 14" (35 cm) - $195
La Befana: 28" (71 cm) - $395 (by order only)
As La Befana, her Italian counterpart, Baboushka was displeased at the interruption of her housework by the Magi in search of the manger. In her annoyance, she gave them incorrect directions! Later, out of remorse, she loaded a basket of gifts and goodies and set out to find the Magi, without success. Thereafter, Baboushka left gifts in the rooms of sleeping children on the Eve of Epiphany until the Soviet Union suppressed this tradition.
Baboushka: 14" (35 cm) - $205
Baboushka: 28" (71 cm) - $405 (by order only)
The Communist Revolution in 1917 intended this elderly gentleman to be a replacement for all local gift-bringers and the
Christmas legends of pre-Soviet Russia. He brought gifts at New Year's instead of Christmas Eve as Kolyada (Father Christmas ) had done.
The celebration of Baboushka at Epiphany was also suppressed.
However, Grandfather Frost was resisted by the people and regarded as a symbol of Russian oppression instead.
In 1937, Josef Stalin ordered that his costume be in blue or silver so as not to be linked to Santa Claus in red.
A character portraying Ded Moroz lives in Veliky Ustyug, 500 miles north-east of Moscow along with his grand daughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden). They can be visited for New Year's celebrations.The pair, Granfather and grand daughter, also attend school and community festivities at New Year's.
Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost): 14" (35 cm) - $195
Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost): 28" (71 cm) - $395 (by order only)
A jolly reveler in England who celebrated with feasting, drinking and merriment in honour of both the Winter Solstice and
Christmas. Although he was not a religious figure, he was one in a succession of English replacements for St. Nicholas after the Protestant
Reformation. A full, red, fur trimmed coat and holly in his hair were his noted features.
Father Christmas was not associated with gift-bringing or children until the 19th century when his appearance also changed.
18th C. Father Christmas: 14" (35 cm) - $195
18th C. Father Christmas: 28" (71 cm) - $395 (by order only)
I n the 1600s, the Dutch brought their St. Nicholas Eve traditions with them when they emigrated to the New World. The
name Sinterklaas, (Dutch for St. Nicholas),
after years of mispronunciation by English speaking children, evolved into 'Sainty Claus' then 'Santa Claus'.
In the early 1800s, his image was altered from that of a ' Bishop', by American author Washington Irving, to become "a jolly Dutchman with a pipe, wearing baggy pants & broad brimmed hat".
Santa Claus - 1808 (Sinterklaas): 16" (40.5 cm) - $215
Santa Claus - 1808 (Sinterklaas): 28" (71 cm) - $415 (by order only)
This old gentleman, who was a 19th. century German equivalent of Santa claus, traveled on foot throughout Protestant areas
of Germany on Christmas Eve. For naughty boys and girls, he left switches. Gifts were left for the good children. In some areas he was accompanied
by Christkindl who assisted him with a list of the good boys & girls.
He was banned in favour of Knecht Ruprecht, (a character of pagan roots), by the Nazis in their campaign to abolish all things Christian during the Second World War.
Weihnachtsmann (Christmas Man): 16" (40.5 cm) - $225
Weihnachtsmann (Christmas Man): 28" (71 cm) - $425 (by order only)
Scandinavia is known for its elves and gnomes throughout the year as protectors of
'hearth & home'.
This one, Jultomten is typical of a Scandinavian elf at Christmas. Another is Yulenisse or Nisse of Denmark and Norway.
However, at times, these characters can get up to mischief! For instance, Julnisse of Denmark is bribed with a serving of the traditional rice pudding to keep him out of trouble. Jultomten also had to be bribed to perform his favours. He is noted for his long white beard and traveling by sleigh drawn by the Julbock, the Swedish 'Christmas Goat'.
Jultomten: 13" (35 cm) - $205
Jultomten: 24" (66 cm) - $405 (by order only)
Although the English Father Christmas is the traditional Santa of Ireland, this old country gentleman dressed in the green of 'the Emerald Isle', and loaded with Christmas toys, provides a novel rendition of how an Irish Santa could appear.
An Irish Santa: 14" (35 cm) - $195
An Irish Santa: 28" (71 cm) - $395 (by order only)
The Christian children of China hang muslin stockings hoping that Santa Claus will fill them with gifts and treats. The Chinese Christmas trees are called ‘Trees of Light’
The non-Christian Chinese call this season the Spring Festival and celebrate with many festivities that include delicious meals and pay respects to their ancestors. The children are the main focus of these celebrations, they receive new clothes and toys, eat delectable food and watch firecrackers displays.
Both Santa Claus and the Laughing Buddha are associated with the notion of “bringing the gift of happiness” to everyone and particularly to children. They both wear red clothing and carry loads of gifts. But while Santa is closely associated with the season of Christmas, Laughing Buddha or Mi Lo Fa (as he is known in Chinese) is welcomed, celebrated and invited into homes, restaurants and businesses all through the year.
Sheng Dan Lao Ren: 16" (40.5 cm) - $225
Sheng Dan Lao Ren: 28" (71 cm) - $425 (by order only)
This is a typical, kind Santa as depicted during the reign of Queen Victoria, 1837 to 1897, and featured on postcards of the era. Christmas was a very important event centred around children & family. Many of the customs originated in Germany,(including the Christmas tree), reflecting the heritage of the Queen's husband, Prince Albert. A Victorian Santa often carried a Christmas tree along with 'tons of toys'.
Victorian Father Christmas: 16" (40.5 cm) - $215
Victorian Father Christmas: 28" (71 cm) - $415 (by order only)
By 1914, Santa Claus was known across Europe as well as North America. The Santa of France, Pere Noel, was a kind gift bringer who traveled about the countryside by donkey.
He would leave gifts in the shoes placed by the fire place or Nativity scene, by good boys and girls .Sometimes treats for Père Noël's donkey were left in return.
The first French immigrants to Canada brought their Père Noël customs with them to celebrate Christmas in their new, adopted homeland.
Soldiers of the First World War received comfort from a visit from "Père Noël" in the form of supplies, moral support and in 1916, (as reported by a French magazine), "a sleigh full of beautiful women" !*
*Santa Claus: A Biography by Jerry Bowler
Inspired by Clement Moore's poem, 'A Visit from St. Nick', this Santa is an interpretation by political
cartoonist, Thomas Nast of the 1800s. Unlike the gift-bringer of Mr. Nast's German heritage, 'Pelznickel', this one was a jolly, stout
fellow as the poem portrays him. Thomas Nast's pen & ink sketches of this Santa appeared in 'Harper's Weekly' magazine
at Christmas for many years; and in his book in 1889, 'Thomas Nast's Christmas Drawings for the Human Race'.
He also originated many of the Santa Legends: Santa's home at the North Pole; the writing of letters to Santa; leaving a snack for Santa and Santa spying on childrens' behaviour throughout the year.
Thomas Nast Santa: 16" (40.5 cm) - $215
Thomas Nast Santa: 28" (71 cm) - $415 (by order only)
The standard appearance of our modern day Santa was introduced by Norman Rockwell's illustrations in the Saturday
Evening Post and in ads for pop by the White Rock Beverages Company in 1915.
In 1931 the Coca-Cola Co® introduced a new advertising campaign which associated their product with Santa Claus and warm, family feelings at Christmas time. They hired Haddon Sundblom, a commercial artist, to create images of Santa featuring a bottle of Coca-Cola® as part of the composition. Mr Sundblom created his posters and magazine ads until the mid 1960s. These images have been used in recent years in televised Coca-Cola® ads at Christmas.
Our Present Day Santa: 16" (40.5 cm) - $215
Our Present Day Santa: 28" (71 cm) - $415 (by order only)