Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published November 24th 2012
International Man of Mystery
So, I have to confess - I am a lover of all things Christmas; a total believer in the magic, the malarkey, the get togethers, the preparation. I read my kids 'The Night Before Christmas', every year, we sing, we open the advent calendars. And most of all we look forward to Santa and his logic-defying delivery of the global mother-lode of a gift to every child. Here's some things you might NOT know about the magical man of the moment:
Sinterclaus in all his regal but not jolly glory.
1. Santa Claus was once a real man: a 4th century bishop from modern-day Turkey, Saint Nikolas of Myra. He was also known locally as Nikoalas the Wonderworker. So he clearly got the message that he was going to go above-and-byond very early in the piece. 'Sinterklauss' is his quite serious Dutch incarnation, and is the lad who introduced the 'naughty and nice' booking system for children.
2. According to the 'Encyclopedia for Christmas', there are over 20,000 'Santas for hire' in the USA each year. Most of them participate in Santa training which teaches them how to be jolly no matter what, not to accept money (bribes?) from parents, and advises them on diet - beans, garlic and onions are a no-no before a big Santa session apparently.
3. The first ever artist's depiction of Santa Claus as we know him today was on the cover of US magazine Harpers Weekly by German-born Thomas Nast in 1861 and depicted the hardships experienced by the Union during the American Civil War. In 1881, Nast did a wood engraving for the magazine, of the more jolly chap we recognise today.
Thomas Nast's cover of Harpers Weekly, depicting Santa Claus
4. Santa Claus, in his guise of St Nicholas, is also the patron saint of a rather motley crew of professions, including: pirates, butchers, thieves, bankers, pawnbrokers, children, orphans, sailors and New York City, Amsterdam and Moscow.
5. Scientists with not much to do, have worked out that, in order to deliver presents to all 378 million of the world's Christmas-believing children in one night, Santa and his team of tireless reindeer have to travel at 3,000 times the speed of sound which will exert 17,500 G-forces on the poor red-suited super hero.
6. The World Record for the largest ever gathering of Santas is held by Derry, Northern Ireland, when in 2010, 12,965 red-dressed fellows got together for a ho-ho-ho.
Guinness Book of World Records: Largest Santa Gathering.
7. Santa is an international man of mystery with many pseudonyms: In Turkey and Iran he is known as Noel Baba. In Norway, Juelnissen; Hawaii: Kanakaloka. In Chile he is Viejo Pascalero (Old Man Christmas) My all time favourite is his Russian name: Ded Moroz (Grandpa Frost).
8. And finally, in case you were wondering, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, as confirmed by the editor of the New York Sun in 1897, in response to a letter from Virginia O'Hanlon, the 8 year old daughter of a local coroner's assistant:
Original clipping from the Sun of editor's response to Virginia's famous letter