Who is Santa Claus?

Georgian Santa Claus > Georgian Santa Claus look-alike figure is called “Tovlis Babua”. His name can be translated as ‘Snow Grandfather.’ Georgians took their New Year celebrity from the traditions of a Russian “Ded Moroz”. The character came from the Russian folk fairy tale “Morozko”, which is about an unkind old man, who had a big wooden staff that could turn everybody and everything into ice. According to the legends during the Winter Solstice this figure had to be appeased. The sacrifice was a young virgin, who had to be wrapped to the tree and left to freeze. If she froze during the day, the sacrifice was supposed to be accepted. The sack of Ded Moroz was initially intended for collecting the offerings. With his wooden staff the evil character beat disobedient children or frightened them with scary tales.

The present image of a Snow Grandfather as a kind generous character was formed only in 1840 in the tale called “Moroz Ivanovich”, written by a Russian writer Vladimir Odoevski. After awhile the Snow Grandfather became a welcomed guest for New Years celebrations, he was believed to be married to the Spring and had a granddaughter called Snegurochka (Georgian Pipkia). Before the revolution bourgeois classes used to decorate a big New Year tree for their children. Since 1927 the Fir tree and Ded Moroz were forbidden by communist authorities, as it was believed to be the remainder of the religious beliefs and superstitions. Only in 1935 the life in Soviet Union was “officially” acknowledged to become “better and lighter” and the Fir Tree and Grandfather with his Snegurochka were allowed.

Every parent wishes to make the New Year celebration unforgettable for their child. And what can be more exciting than a Santa Claus with his funny group of helpers? Lots of Georgian agencies offer their services to make your children happy on New Year’s Eve. Such famous children centers as Jumpao (28 54 92), Amitis (899 17 33 13), Funny Day (95 99 07), Carol and Pepi is not the whole list of the places where you can order your Santa.

The prices for the pleasant surprise vary depending on your place of living, Santa’s program, gifts and the number of his helpers. The performances cost in average from 30 to 100 lari. Organizers of the holiday night celebration offer the following advice: “If your child is too small and very sensitive it is better to order for him/her a Santa Claus instead of Georgian Tovlis Babua. That is because babies are afraid of the Grandfather’s wooden staff and big sac, while Santa is always more simple and jolly.”

The figure of Santa Claus has a very interesting history. Below is some information taken from different web sites describing the history of this jolly red figure.

From Sinter Klaas to Santa Claus > from the Dutch origin of the old fellow to his current residence in Korvatunturi, Finnish Lapland >Santa Claus is the most famous of all the figures associated with Christmas. We generally know him for being a fat, jolly man with a white beard, dressed in a red suit, and driving a sleigh full of presents which is drawn through the air by eight reindeers.

Although Santa has always been an essential part of the Christmas celebration, the modern image of Santa did not develop until well into the 19th century: Santa Claus was an evolutionary creation, born by the fusion of two religious characters, St. Nicholas from the Netherlands and Christkindl from Germany.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, children in the Netherlands put their shoes by the fireplace for Sinter Klaas (Saint Nicholas), a bishop who lived in the 4th century and was known for bringing gifts to the poor. According to the Dutch tradition, every 5th of December Sinter Klaas would fly from rooftop to rooftop on his white horse while dropping sweets down the chimney into the children’s shoes. In Germany the similar tradition of the Christkindl (Christ Child) was celebrated on the 25th of December.

The story of Sinter Klaas was brought to New Amsterdam (the original name of New York) by Dutch settlers in North America, where Sinter Klaas’ name changed into “Santa Claus”.

In the 1860s German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized the modern image of Santa as our fat, jolly man with a white beard. Some years later, in the 1930s, Scandinavian-American artist Haddon Sundblom painted a Santa Claus dressed in a red suit for a Coca-Cola Christmas advertisement. From there on, the modern image of Santa Claus started to spread across the world.

The tradition of Santa Claus has remained particularly strong in the Nordic countries. In Christmas time, a traditional character known as the Yule Goat or Julbock visited the Scandinavian homes dressed with a goat disguise. The Yule Goat liked to sing and dance, and families offered him drink and food in exchange for his entertainment.

During the 19th century the Yule Goat started to change into the modern Santa Claus who visited homes to give Christmas gifts. The goat disguise was abandoned and the jolly man in red took his place, but the Yule Goat was never forgotten. You can still see the ancient Yule Goat in every Scandinavian home as a traditional decorative item on Christmas trees, gardens and dinner tables.

Among all the Nordic countries, the tradition of Santa Claus is particularly strong in Finland. In the late 1920s it was believed that Santa Claus lived on the remote Korvatunturi Mountains, in Finnish Lapland. Subsequently, in 1985 a permanent Santa Claus office was established in Korvatunturi, so anyone can meet the jolly old fellow and his elves in the Santa Claus Park, where Santa gladly discusses about children’s Christmas wishes.

The British believe that Santa comes to England first and leaves them the biggest presents. He lives in the North Pole and rides around in a sleigh, slipping down chimneys and leaving presents under the tree. The Scottish, on the other hand, complain that they get all the leftovers….

There is a Santa look-alike in Holland, but he is actually St. Nicholas, the former bishop of Turkey. He rides a white horse and arrives on a boat, and instead of elves, he is accompanied by six to eight black men.

The children of Greece sing carols and enjoy sweets while fending off the Kalikantzaroi, goblins from the center of the earth who come down the chimney to cause mischief.

At the same time there are plenty of Santa-forsaken corners of the world, like Venezuela where Baby Jesus delivers the presents, while in Germany they await the arrival of the Christmas Angel.

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