Will the Real Santa Claus Please Stand Up?

Merry Christmas! It’s that time of year when it seems the whole world gets wrapped up in the holidays. Being curious myself, I started wondering about the origins of the holiday of Christmas. In particular, I wanted to know more about Santa Claus. “The Church Lady” (Dana Carvey on SNL) did a hilarious skit about Santa many years ago, but I really haven’t heard much about Santa from a historical perspective. There’s actually quite a bit of mystery surrounding the old man. Want to know more about ole Saint Nick? Read on…

The name Santa Claus is an adaptation of the Dutch “Sinterklaas,” which means simply “Saint Nicholas.” Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey, during the 4th century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of Children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on the 6th of December came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishop-ly attire, accompanied by helpers, and inquired about the behavior of children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the 13th century Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of gift-giving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe. At the Reformation in 16th–17th century Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, corrupted in English to Kris Kringle, and the date of giving gifts changed from December the 6th to Christmas Eve.

The modern popular image of Santa Claus, however, was created in the United States, and in particular in New York. The transformation was accomplished with the aid of six notable contributors including Washington Irving and the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840–1902). Following the American Revolutionary War, some of the inhabitants of New York City sought out symbols of the city’s non-English past. New York had originally been established as the Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam and the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition was reinvented as Saint Nicholas. In 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City.

At his first American appearance in 1810, Santa Claus was drawn in bishops’ robes. However as new artists took over, Santa Claus developed more secular attire. Nast drew a new image of “Santa Claus” annually, beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Nast’s Santa had evolved into the robed, fur clad, form we now recognize, perhaps based on the English figure of Father Christmas. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.

Father Christmas, a jolly, well nourished, bearded man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, predates the Santa Claus character. He is first recorded in early 17th century England, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness rather than the bringing of gifts. In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa. The French Père Noël evolved along similar lines, eventually adopting the Santa image. In Italy, Babbo Natale acts as Santa Claus, while La Befana is the bringer of gifts and arrives on the eve of the Epiphany. It is said that La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way. Now, she brings gifts to all children. In some cultures Santa Claus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter. In other versions, elves make the toys. His wife is referred to as Mrs. Claus.

Current tradition in several Latin American countries (such as Venezuela and Colombia) holds that while Santa makes the toys, he then gives them to the Baby Jesus, who is the one who actually delivers them to the children’s homes, a reconciliation between traditional religious beliefs and the iconography of Santa Claus imported from the United States.

Interesting stuff. Bishop Santa?! Baby Jesus delivering toys to kids in Venezuela?!

However you celebrate it, I hope that your Christmas is peaceful and joyful. We’ve got lots of great Christmas gift ideas at our website (TIP: Use the code BEAUTIFUL at checkout for a pretty nice discount on any items ordered)! Merry Christmas from all of us in 1000 Generations and don’t forget the real reason for the season: the birth of Christ.

With love,
Steven Andy

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Killing Anxiety/Panic/Depression

Many of you may know that I struggle with what’s called “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” I shared about it in our video for “Fail Us Not” (see here) and I know that many of you out there struggle with similar things (anxiety, panic, depression, whatever). I’ve gotten many emails over the years asking how I deal with this as a follower of Christ. Having dealt with it for about 9 years, I thought I’d share a few “keys to victory” I’ve learned along the way. If you struggle with anything like this, this blog is dedicated to you…

We, as human beings are made in the image of God. Throughout history, Christian thinkers have seen us as being made up of 3 separate but intertwined parts: physical man, emotional man, and spiritual man. What this means is that there’s really 3 areas of life that I try to be as healthy as possible in. I want redemption from God in all 3 of those areas. Anxiety/Panic/Depression/whatever could reside in any or all 3 of these areas. What I mean is this:

1) Physical: You may have a chemical imbalance in your brain where your body is releasing too much or too little serotonin, which causes the “fight or flight” symptom to happen in us. Too much serotonin means anxiety; too little means depression. My whole family deals with anxiety on some level, and I believe some of this is due to a physical thing passed along through the lines.

2) Emotional: We have all gone through pretty tough stuff I’m sure. Quite possible, you may have some emotional stuff that’s unresolved which is under the surface. Your body’s natural response to these issues may in fact be anxiety/panic/depression. I have had to work through emotional stuff (read: counseling and meditation) because I’ve had some issues in my life too.

3) Spiritual: You may be under attack from the Enemy. I believe that the Devil’s agenda is to “kill, steal, and destroy.” Jesus’ agenda is to “bring LIFE, that we may experience it in the fullest!” Remember, God is bigger than the enemy; the light outshines the darkness; good has the victory over evil.

For me, I believe that all 3 factors come into play. For you, I’m not sure. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. The way you handle it (in my experience) is you attack it from every angle. The BEST wisdom I got about anxiety was “if there was a snake in my house, I wouldn’t care HOW I got it out, I’d just want it out.” The same applies to stuff like this. SO, what this may look like is:

1) Physical: Work out. Eat healthy. Cut back on caffeine. Go see a doctor and see what he/she says. I am on 20mg of Lexapro everyday. This helps me a ton. Don’t be too proud to talk to a doctor. Meds can and do help many people.

2) Emotional: Go talk to a counselor if you aren’t. I see a counselor from time to time. I think everyone should do this now and again. Everyone. Having folks listen to us who are trained listeners is a blessing. Again, pride has hurt so many folks who won’t go see a counselor…..

3) Spiritual: Have folks you trust pray over you. Worship God. Seek Him and ask for healing. Repent of areas you may have given over to the Enemy. God loves us and is for us. I’ve often found that UNFORGIVENESS is a key area that can be a huge stronghold in our lives. Ask God if there’s anyone you may need to forgive. Maybe He’s already showing you in dreams, circumstances, etc…

God has and is walking me through the valley of anxiety. I will be here for you if you want to talk about it, but I would totally recommend talking with: doctor, counselor, pastor. Anxiety is NOT the victor in your life, Jesus is. Remember that. Hope this helps.

I wish you God’s best. Keep in touch and please let others know about http://www.failusnot.com if you think it would help them!

Your friend,
Steven
1000 Generations

Junior High and the Resurrection

What if there were no life after Junior High? I couldn’t bear the thought. I spoke this last Sunday at Vineyard Community Church on this exact thing (well, sort of). You can listen to the message if you want by clicking here. Be encouraged friends…This is not the end of all there is to be.