Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa is a man that goes by many names and is recognizable to nearly everyone. Traditionally portrayed as a portly man in a red suit and a white beard, he comes down the chimney every Christmas Eve to deliver presents and enjoy milk and cookies. But who is he really? Our current version of Santa Claus in the United States is a combination of three different characters, hailing from three different countries.
It all starts with Saint Nicholas of Myra, who was a Greek Christian bishop in what is now modern day Turkey during the 4th century. He was famous for giving gifts to the poor and less fortunate. He died on December 6, 343. His life and generosity would eventually inspire people to hold a feast day on the anniversary of his death. He has since become known as the patron saint of sailors, fisherman, and numerous others, as well as the cities of Amsterdam and Moscow.
Sinterklaas is thought to have inspired the North American version of Santa Claus, while also still existing as a completely different entity in certain countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium. Sinterklaas day is celebrated with the giving of gifts on December 5th, the day before Saint Nicholas Day (Inspired by Saint Nicholas of Myra and also known as feast day). Dutch settlers in New York brought this tradition with them to the New World, but over time the date shifted to become more in line with the Christmas holiday. However, in parts of Europe there are those who still celebrate Sinterklaas Day, while others celebrate Christmas.
In England, Father Christmas can be traced back as far as the 15th century. He was not known to deliver presents, but simply typified good cheer, peace, food, and wine. As England no longer celebrated feast day on December 6th, he instead came to be associated with the Christmas holiday. Originally not described as old, nor referred to as father, he assumed his current form some time during the 16th century.
Regardless of his origins and his cluttered past he is now a symbol of cheer and good tidings during the holiday season, and a permanent figurehead for Christmas.
Every year at Lafayette’s Oceanfront Resort we adopt a local family who is less fortunate, and with the help of our guests we try to provide some comfort and happiness during the holiday season. This year we have a family with three young children, ages 11, 9, and 5. I simply wanted to thank our guests who every year donate toys, clothes, and food. The families over the years have appreciated all of the contributions more than you can imagine, and are often times left speechless by the generosity of our guests. So on behalf of all the families that we’ve been able to help, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who helps make the holiday season a truly magical time of the year.
Earlier in the year I gave a quick rundown of some of the best festivals in the Wells/Ogunquit/Kennebunk area, and I ranked the Christmas Prelude festival in Kennebunkport as the number one, can’t miss experience. In addition to expanded shop hours and Christmas sales, the Prelude plays host to some of Southern Maine’s most original and quintessential traditions and events.
The festivities kick off on Friday with the tree lighting ceremony in Dock Square, accompanied by caroling with the Kennebunk High School Choir. Later in the evening, Kennebunkport’s most unique holiday decoration will be lit in Cape Porpoise Square. Nothing, and I mean nothing, says welcome to the holiday season in Maine like the lighting of the Cape Porpoise Lobster Trap Tree.
On Saturday the fun continues with the 10th annual hat parade at Dock Square and the lighting of the Lower Village Tree. Following the lighting, spectators participate in the traditional stroll to the Franciscan Monastery for Christmas stories and carols.
The weather this weekend looks fantastic, with temperatures projected to be in the high 40’s with plenty of sunshine. So come relax by the sea and help all of us kick off this holiday season.