The Legends of Santa

The Legends of Santa

2009, History  -   73 Comments
Ratings: 6.84/10 from 19 users.

The Legends of SantaSanta's image is almost universally recognizable as one of Christianity's most enduring and popular legends, yet the seemingly timeless jolly old man with his bag of toys, steering his reindeer and sliding down chimneys, is a relatively modern image.

The Legends of Santa shows how today's image of Father Christmas is a culmination of centuries of history and legend.

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey.

Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.

One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.

Over the course of many years, Nicholas's popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors.

His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married.

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73 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Daniel Sheffield

    There is absolutely nothing Holy or Christian about Christmas. You'll find, by reading the Bible and also by historical writings, that the true Christians never celebrated Christmas. In fact Christmas is an abomination.
    There is no dispute that Christmas was the 'Christian-ization' of several pagan Holidays.

    "Be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same." You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, . . ." - Deut 12:30-31
    ----There are at least 4 or 5 other versus like these.

    Also, I don't know anyone (Christian or not) who keeps Christmas AND the actual Holy days.
    Christ said this also (to the pharisees and sadducees): "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" - Matt 15:3

    Remember 1 Thess 5:21: "Prove all things."

    One day I DID look into the truth behind Christmas. And I was shocked.
    At the time I was a VERY passive Christian. On the point of saying: "I believe in [a] God... but who cares?"

    I'm just glad that I read the article about the TRUTH behind Christmas and Easter. I have a new zeal now that I never had before.

    I'm so relieved that all the contradictory things I was taught when I thought I was 'Christian' were false doctrines!
    Now I understand the TRUTH I can "Hold fast to that which is good" - 1 Thess 5:21b


  2. Guest

    I wish you Happy Holidays, too, Charles, a little late... I was going to get back to your post a little later on the other night, but it slipped my mind. (I had too many Republicans to rant at and about elsewhere, I think it was.)
    My name, however, is with an "e", my good man. (It's ANNE Shirley, you know...not ANN Shirley, lolol. It makes a great deal of aesthetic difference!)

    Oh, yes: Bachmann, 2056

    Sorry, I couldn't resist. :)

  3. Achems_Razor

    To save space, I wish "everyone" on TDF a MERRY XMAS!

    1. Guest

      Good call, but I cant control myself!! Merry Christmas Mighty Achem x

  4. Guest

    merry christmas xxx
    * * * * * * *
    HOHO * * *

  5. Christina Lombardo

    Ill take bags of gold coins over new socks any day... :)

  6. wheelnut53

    good luck finding 3 wise men these days

    1. Irishkev

      Ha, that's what I thought.

  7. drinker69

    Was Attenburough drinking rum and egg nog while narrating this? He sounds like he's on the way to having both eyes in one socket. Merry Xmas.

  8. jbriggs_87

    merry christmas everyone. i hope santa cums and his empties his sack for all of u

    1. drinker69

      haha lol

  9. dmxi

    just to clarify....i'm an irish/manc & half german(mother's side) currently living in 'momma's country' & she always spoke english whilst visiting the netherlands due to not wanting to be harrassed by locals for previous war crimes she didn't indulge in!

  10. dmxi

    here's a little positive racism:''i love the dutch for beeing the kindest & most open minded nation except towards snobby 'germermans' & rightly so!''

    1. James Colwell

      That makes no sense everyone knows dutch ppl are douche bags.

    2. paulpeters300

      My mother is one of those Dutch people!

    3. paulpeters300

      'Germans' but that makes no sense, either, it is just stupid football, real fussbal.voetbal talking. I practically live in Germany and had friends there even girlfriends and we are not nazis.

  11. relament

    Hmmm...I was almost sure they would talk about when Santa created the Universe and was nailed to a cross? I guess I should look under "cryto-zoology" for that information...

  12. drinker69

    I remember the day when I found out Santa didn't exist. My older brother was snooping around in the basement, and he came running upstairs and grabbed me off the couch in an 'I have something crazy to show you' way. He brought me downstairs and opened this giant chest. Inside were some wrapped presents labeled 'From Santa'. We both looked at each other like WTF? After staring at each other for a couple minutes we realized neither of us gave a s*** and closed the lid.

  13. Imightberiding

    My last comment on this doc although I am only 2/3 way through the 3rd of 4 parts to this film. My post secondary education was theology. The idea of 3 wise men or 3 kings does not occur any where in the bible. Thank goodness I have since studied other dare I say "secular" ideas & concepts & have gone through a monumental awakening. I'll sum this up with the statement: Christopher Hitchens, you are my Santa & will be sorely missed.

  14. Imightberiding

    OK. After my silly response to adilrye I will now watch this doc/film. I trust we all know now that the modern fat/rotund jolly santa we grew up with was an invention of Coca Cola Co. Inc.

  15. adilrye

    I love stuff like this. I never knew it was a young, golden clad woman in southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Or the Three Wise Men in Spain. Or that St. Nicholas was from Eastern Turkey and was a Greek priest. It's all light hearted and entertaining, I love learning about other cultural traditions; it's great. Especially when you delve into the political and religious reasons behind them.

    Now, I do find the Black Peter a little shocking, as a person coming from a part of the world where minstrel shows are well known and considered highly offensive, I can take issue with some of the ideas present with the character. But I'm not "that guy", it's all in the name of fun, who am I to trample on something like that? I'm assuming (as in other parts of the world), there is less meaning behind black face as there is in the USA and UK, so it shouldn't be taken in the same exact context.

    1. Imightberiding

      No, no, no, no, no. He symbolizes the north Pacific winter!

      Alright now. @adilrye you must have edited your comment because now mine makes no sense at all. Cheers! & Happy Holidays to you & all!

  16. Sieben Stern

    i find it funny with the story of 3 daughters, that they would get money instead of having dowries abolished :T

    that policy leads to aborting daughters because parents have to pay to marry them off, instead of getting the money and the extra help (wife) around the house. there are some places in india where there are no women because of this.

    1. Guest

      No women ? well that little tradition will die out pretty quickly :)

    2. Sieben Stern

      It's called India's missing girls, I can't find the link anymore :T

      it's been going on for quite a long time already, which is why it's gotten so bad. it won't change until there are no women left.

    3. Guest

      Any society that fails to realise how important their women are is eventually going to fail. If you go back to basics, men hunt and protect and women do almost everything else. That is why we women rule the world, whatever the men might think ;)

    4. Achems_Razor

      50 4 40,

      Whatever you say, sweet pants.

    5. Guest

      Always ;)

    6. Mike Babcock

      I'll agree with your declaration about the equal value of the human female as an imperative in a relatively free functioning society; in a modern sense. What I do have difficulty agreeing with is your belief in a benign gender superiority that erroneously tries to draw parallels to a single example of domestic function to the origins of Ardipithecus Ramidus. There is a vast ocean of anthropological data that disagrees with your illperceived notion. Save the reproductive differences in each gender, women have participated in all areas you believe are purely the male domain. Conduct a modicum of research and you will realize this to be true. I encourage you to further explore your passive-aggressive ideas. I leave you with this: why, in recent modern times, has the male so completely dominated positions of power and control in the myriad of institutions that dictate direction and control in modern society?

    7. Guest

      Now that is a well worded comment and when christmas is over I will give you a full answer. For now though I will answer with a question, does your lady agree ? Merry Christmas :)

    8. Mike Babcock

      Good evening, I hope this festive season is treating you very well. My wife understands it is unreasonable to be divisive about issues of practicality and common sense. Our partnership is mutual, equal, and supportive. We both share in the accomplishments and also in the burdens of marriage and the important tasks of shaping and developing our children. I can only hope that, in the fullness of time, gender equality on Earth takes hold. Cultural beliefs and prejudices need to change in order to make meaningful progress though. I dread the possibility that one of my daughters would be unfortunate enough to somehow get involved with a partner who is emotionally immature.

    9. Guest

      Evening Mike, have to admit I was pulling your leg a bit with my last comment. Think I have given you the wrong impression, I'm all for equality in everything. Equality doesn't have to mean sameness though, I dont want to be treated the same as a man because I'm not a man. I love being a woman. I do think we have different rolls but I dont think either are incapable of filling the others boots, we just look better in our own. Hope your Christmas was lovely, My man cooked this year and we had an Indian Feast, delicious :)

    10. Guest

      Oh, and I'll still be right ;)

    11. pantera154

      Seriously mike, i have never heard anyone as over indulgent in the English language as you. How long did it take you to type that message? Probably too long. Wannabe smart arse.

    12. Mike Babcock

      Come on. It's really not necessary to be insulting over this medium. If my grasp of the English language somehow offends you, I can not imagine how I could possibly make things right by you. I don't think you are being reasonable with your comment. It is however, reasonable to expect people to present a broad scale of proficiency in their communication skills; some better and some worse. It is also reasonable to expect participants in any type of discussion make the necessary effort to think through their ideas and formulate them so others will understand without too much confusion. This is what a reasonable and rational person would do instead of allowing a response wrapped in emotion hijack their keyboard.

    13. pantera154

      lol dude. Chill out, take some Prozac or something, ure on a Santa documentary remember.

  17. Irishkev

    Happy Solstice Everybody, the days are getting longer. Now where did I leave those mushrooms?

    1. greyspoppa

      Oh yes Kev the REAL story of xmas!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Irishkev

    Wow, what a load of crapola. I thought everybody knew that "Santa" was the Shaman who came around during the darkest days of winter to make sure everybody was okay, have a drink and maybe share some of the mushrooms he had saved. Ever wondered how the reindeer fly? Also if you live in a place where the snow covers the door of your dwelling, how does Shaman/Santa get in? Easy, he slides down the chimney opening.

  19. Anthony Pirtle

    David Sedaris wrote a classic essay about the dutch santa claus called "6 to 8 Black Men". Its definitely worth the read.

    1. Far Spam

      No need for a poem... the Dutch are a bunch of racist N@zis... the allied cleared out Germany in WW2 but they forgot to clean out Holland

    2. magarac

      You will find these kind of people in every country on earth.
      And you know what? Claiming that dutch people in general are racists just shows that you are racist as well.

      GOD JUL!!!

    3. Mindwars

      God jul!:)

  20. An Oldfool

    I am glad to see how this yearly extortion of my money every December came about. There seems to be a certain genuineness to the European celebrations unlike the crazed herd mentality here in USA
    From what I understand, Santa has edged out The Infant of Prague in Czech Republic as Sugar Daddy of choice and will slowly conquer, not only the Martians, but also all the Earthlings as well...go Santa

  21. Guest

    exellent doc i thought. now i know what Santa does the rest o'the year...he runs his soft drinks business ! Hohoho...Jolly Yule y'all

  22. IzirAtig

    In Finland we had kinda christmas goat in past times. Finnish translation to santa claus is still joulupukki which means christmas goat.

    1. Christian Tintin Johansson

      *stabs with a knife*
      *finishes the vodka*

      merry christmas suomi

  23. Far Spam

    In Holland they have Black Pete who is a slave of father Xmas... they tell kids if you are naughty the black guy will kidnap you as opposed to if you are good FatherX will bring you presents...

    Every generation of Dutch kids are brainwashed with this cr@p... they think its harmless fun but if you ever hear grown up Dutch people talk about foreigners or black people you know they are just a bunch of N@zis!

    1. Keith Wilson

      wow yeah, seeing that whole Black Peter thing is pretty shocking. They didn't even address it in the slightest in this doco, the fact that is really offensive and harmful in what it teaches kids.

    2. CapnCanard

      Black Pete/Zwarte Piet... or sometimes a character called Ruprecht and there are a dozen other names to scare children and keep them in line. The standard American view of the world is sanitized and plastic and that makes it easier to sell. If you really look into Xmas celebration then you would find that Christianity is a late comer to the traditional observation of the end of short days, the sun is returning and growing in power. Lots of misinformation regarding observable, replicable phenomena that christianity has taken great pains to deem products of Satan and the other garbage they believe. There are far more traditions that have nothing to do with Christ, that Xmas tree? The red suit and white trim? Flying reindeer? Perhaps meant to resemble the red and white the Amanita Muscaria. Fun stuff...

    3. Melissa Rambler

      get a life this story is older than facism

    4. paulpeters300

      Oh dear...

      There is some truth in what you say there, Far Spam, the 'black pete's' are probably based on an African slave image but when the festivities were commercialized this was somehow conveniently changed to chimney sweepers. Yet it is still a embarrassing and insensitive element in these festivities and by time more people are against this charade.

      But it is not a conspiracy to turn all Dutch people in to 'N@zis' and it never did. I think it is a bit harsh and narrow-minded to think that it is possible to turn the almost 17 million people of The Netherlands in to bigoted racists by this, albeit somewhat sketchy tradition.

    5. Jack1952

      A racist is one who finds the worst element of any story or culture, ignoring all other aspects of that story or culture, and uses it as validation for his own bigoted views. The common belief was that if children were good they would find candy in their shoes. If they had been bad they would find a lump of coal or a bundle of twigs. There were versions that say the children may be kidnapped and be taken to Spain, the home of St. Nicholas. Black Pete was a said to be a Moor which are known to have darker skin. Most Dutch are quite fond of Black Pete and I have yet to meet a Dutch person who willfully uses him to demean any race. This is a tradition that is very old and has evolved greatly over the years. It is not something that is rooted in racism.

      To characterize the Dutch as Nazis is insulting. It is a slap in the face to all those who lost family members to the Nazis, whether in battle, in the resistance or to starvation. The Dutch suffered under Nazi rule and are probably the most grateful of any country in Europe to the Allied soldiers who liberated them. On May 5 of every year there are huge celebrations all over the country commemorating the Nazi defeat and honoring all those who helped in that defeat. A close friend of mine recently went to Holland, all expenses paid by the Dutch, because they wanted to honor his father who was killed fighting the Nazis there.

      And yes, there are Dutch people who are racists. There are racists all over the world. It would seem that you are no stranger yourself to bigotry by reading your blanket assessment of a nationality. Painting with a wide brush is what racists do.

    6. Far Spam

      What if Black Pete was say Jew Pete? Were there not old traditions to demonise Jews? Would anyone still tolerate those traditions?

      The case with Holland and WW2 is that history was written by the victors.

    7. Jack1952

      The use of the word "Black" is what is at the heart of the matter. However, this is in English. Sometimes a word or phrase does not have the same meaning when a direct, word for word, translation is used. There are cultural aspects that come into play. Although, we cannot know for certain how the the Dutch felt about Black Peter when he first entered into the cultural field, we can now be fairly certain that his existence is not used to demonize any race today. That is what is important.

      "History is written by the victors". Since you acknowledge the Dutch as victors over the Nazis you would also have to surmise from this statement that the Dutch were not Nazi allies. This phrase is also used when there is no information to support ones position. If there is no information available the only recourse left is to discredit what information there is by using slogans. There may be some truth to it but it is not absolute. Anyways, I find its use in your comment confusing.

    8. Far Spam

      The heart of the matter is that the Dutch are Nazis... you assume and are certain about much...

    9. over the edge

      @Far Spam
      wow! from the telling of one tradition you reach the conclusion "the Dutch are Nazis." and "the Dutch are a bunch of racist N@zis." really? not that some used to be or some are but all of them. ok let me use your logic. in the 90's the kkk in the U.S. used "i am dreaming of a white Christmas" to justify their racist beliefs and even tried to get a float into a parade by the same name. so all Americans are racist. the royal family in England is of German decent so all British are Nazi's. this is easy i am sure i could use your logic to make any group, culture,race or religion to be racist. or do you have actual proof to back up your claim? now i am native Canadian (i rarely refer to myself this way because being Canadian is good enough for me no need to distinguish myself from others because of the heritage i was born into) and i find it annoying when groups say sports teams (braves,chiefs,Indians) are racist. maybe they started out that way (i don't believe so but irrelevant anyway ) but we as the human race have more important things to worry about.

    10. Far Spam

      You now have internet access in your Teepees?

      You want to worry about something worry about your fellow human race who wants to wipe you out! You of all people should know.

    11. over the edge

      @Far Spam
      wow that was racist. assuming all natives live in teepee's. you are the racist one and not only that your logic is flawed. could you (asking again) provide real evidence for your claims or are you making baseless ignorant assumptions about an entire people based on a tradition ?

    12. Far Spam

      Any "native" would be proud to have such a tradition of living in a "teepee"...

      I think you have very little understanding of what race or culture is...

    13. over the edge

      last time asking. do you have any EVIDENCE for your claims? and living in a teepee is not the racist part assuming i do is

    14. Far Spam

      evidence or no evidence if you want to see it its there, or not... the proof will be when its too late... isnt that right looking at your own history !

    15. over the edge

      @Far Spam
      so no proof. ok so what you say is only opinion? i can show you many bad things that happened in the past and can probably attribute those bad things to almost all if not all groups. the past may provide a list of things to look out for but are in no way a definite guide of what is going to happen. anyway same as jack1952 i am done responding to you .there is no substance to your argument

    16. Jack1952

      Now that was demeaning...and it would seem that you meant it to be.

    17. Jack1952

      Well said.

      I think I will no longer engage in this conversation with him as all he seems to do is attack without any real evidence to back up his claims.

    18. Jack1952

      I am certain because I sang the Dutch Christmas songs and was quite excited when I believed St. Nicholas and Black Peter were coming. That was my first Christmas memory.
      I have also listened to the stories my parents and families told about the Nazis that occupied Holland. Living in Canada, I've had many Canadian veterans tell me how well treated they were by the Dutch and how grateful the Dutch were, and are, for the liberation from Nazi occupation. My assumptions and certainties are rooted in family experience and tradition.