5 Stories Behind the Faces of Our Favorite Holidays – There seems to be a unique character for every holiday. But where did these figures come from? These personas often embody the spirit of the day and carry a wealth of history and tradition. Keep reading to learn about the 5 stories behind the faces of our favorite holidays.
1. Santa Claus
Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle. We know Santa as the big guy in the red suit who flies around in his reindeer-drawn sleigh on Christmas Eve. However, the origins of Santa go back to a real man who lived in the third century. He was a monk named Saint Nicholas and became the patron saint of children. Born in 280 A.D. in modern-day Turkey, Saint Nicholas died on December 6th, 343 A.D.
After his death, St. Nicholas became the most popular saint in Europe, especially in Holland. In the 1770s, Dutch settlers in America gathered to honor the death of St. Nicholas. Their nickname for him was Sinter Klaas. This nickname evolved into Santa Claus. In the United States, Santa Claus became synonymous with Christmas, children, and gift-giving. Other holiday characters associated with Santa include Mrs. Claus, the flying reindeer, Rudolph, and his toy-making elves in the North Pole.
2. Baby New Year
The Baby New Year has come to symbolize the “birth” of the next year. This symbolization dates back to 600 B.C. In ancient Greece, people paraded through town with a baby in a basket. It’s believed that the baby symbolized the rebirth of Dionysius, the Greek god of wine and fertility. When Christianity was introduced to Europe, Baby New Year became associated with the baby Jesus. Today, there is no religious significance to Baby New Year. Editorial cartoons usually place a sash or top hat on Baby New Year. Many also associate Baby New Year with the saying, “out with the old, in with the new.”
3. St. Valentine
As we continue exploring our 5 Stories Behind the Faces of Our Favorite Holidays, we get to the heart of the matter. Well, we at least examine the origins of Valentine’s Day. Throughout history, there have been three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus. All three were martyred. According to legend, one of the imprisoned Valentines sent a greeting to a young girl who visited him during confinement. The girl was thought to have been the jailor’s daughter. Before his death, he supposedly wrote her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.” While details are murky, many believe that Valentine was a heroic and romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, Valentine became a popular saint throughout France and England.
4. Easter Bunny
Nobody knows for sure how and when the Easter bunny came about. German writings from the 1600s provide the first mention of any bunny associated with Easter. The Germans converted an image of a rabbit into Oschter Haws. According to the stories, the rabbit laid a nest of colored eggs as gifts for good children. In the 1700s, Dutch settlers brought Oshter Haws with them to America. The name evolved into the Easter Bunny. Every year this remarkable rabbit brings baskets full of goodies to children as they sleep on the night before Easter.
5. St. Patrick
Like previously-mentioned holiday characters, St. Patrick was a real person. He was born in the late 4th Century and taken from Britain to Ireland as a slave. Even though he escaped, St. Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity. He died on March 17th, 461. According to legend, St. Patrick drove snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost made up the Trinity.
While we identify other symbols to these and other celebrations, these 5 stories behind the faces of our favorite holidays help us to understand many modern traditions.
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