December 2020

The Ageless Myths of Santa Claus

Part 2, Parents are Caregivers Too!

In my last post about the origins of Santa Claus, I spoke of how the early Dutch Settlers to NY carried with them their practice of honoring St. Nickolas, which translated into Dutch is Sinterklaas, from which we derive the present name of Santa Claus. In this post I want to delve deeper into the ageless myths of Santa Clause that transcend time and space.

Myths can be understood in two different ways. Often when we hear something is a myth, we believe it is a falsehood. Another understanding of myth is they express core experiences that are part of the human experience. It is from this perspective that I wish to explore the ageless myth of Santa Claus.

Myths also reveal archetypes that reveal a collective universal human experience. When we think of Santa Claus, we think of gift giving. Pre-Christian Nordic, Scandinavian, and Russian mythologies speak of shamans and gods who delivered gifts. The shaman was dressed in red and white, one who was rotund with a wide girth, who rode in a sleigh which was led by reindeer. He would fly over a hut, like a teepee, which had an opening at the top in which he dropped gifts.

What is ageless is the similarity between our modern understanding of Santa Claus and the myths of old. The mythology attributes the shaman dressed in red and while because of his eating a red and white mushroom. This mushroom has hallucinogenic qualities in which the shaman dreamed he could fly. Indeed, he was on his own trip! He would travel on a sleigh, as was common in norther Europe during winter accompanied by reindeer, who led the sleigh. The opening in the teepees evolved into the chimney of modern times.

In Christian mythology, focus was on St. Nicholas a third century Bishop from Turkey who gave gifts to the poor. With the rise of consumerism, Santa Claus became the secular giver of gifts at Christmas, and the tradition of parents becoming Santa Claus evolved instead of giving gifts on the feast of St. Nicholas December 6th or the three wise men bearing gifts on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th

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