Saint Nicholas (270 – 343 A D) was teh 4th century Greek bishop of Myre in Asia Minor (today the village in Aegean Turkey and is called Demre).
The bishop was also known as Nikolaus the Wonderworker because of many miracles during his intercessions between feuding individuals,
The was above all, a humanitarian who ardently believed in happy children and had a reputation for secretly dropping coins into the shoes left in front of houses if he knew that the family was needy.
In those days Myra was a small town where every family was known to one another.
St. Nicholas is the progenitor of Santa Claus that comes from Dutch Sinterklaas, is revered by Catholics, eastern Christian and Orthodox religions, and honoured by Anglicans and Lutherans.
Today’s commercialization of Santa Claus is the making of retailers in Western Europe and North America to maximize their profits.
In Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, Christmas is a time of reflection and not much of exaggerated gift giving.
There people go to church, visit family, think about the history of the Christian faith and less of buying expensive gifts for children since it often results in being forced to pay for the gifts long after the festive season.
Armenian, Greek, and Russian Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on night of January 6 then on the seventh day of January. Often, deeply religious people fast for 40 days before Christmas, and during the last three days eat nothing so as to receive communion on a “pure stomach”.
These days, from December 10 in German-speaking or influenced countries, Christmas markets are popular.
This tradition dates back to late Middle Ages. The first Christmas market appeared in 1434 in Dresden and later Bautzen started to organize such a market.
Today, both attract millions of visitors to enjoy nativity scenes, candies, tasted almonds, cookies, gingerbread (Magerbrot in German), stollen (Christstollen), bratwurst, mulled wine (Gluhwein), eggnogs and imaginatively decorated Christmas trees.
Small stands offer carved religious scenes, preserves foods, jams, simple toys (no electronics), knitted gloves, and shawls.
The most famous German Christmas markets are in Dortmund, Erfurt, Nurnberg, Dresden, Stuttgart, Augsburg. Strasbourg in Alsace, also has a very popular Christmas market.
In England, Lincoln and Birmingham Christmas markets organized in 1980’s.
American soldiers stationed in Germany after World War II brought Christmas traditions to the U S A upon their return.
In Canada, Kitchener, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Toronto organize Christmas markets. The Toronto version takes place in the Distillery District and feature a magnificent Christmas tree on the “square” and several pre-fabricated roofed stalls, offering chocolates, maple syrup, caked, carved nativity scenes, European-style foods, carollers, and concerts featuring Christmas songs.
In the early 19th century, Christmas celebrations had no semblance to modern styles that are loaded with parties, a lot of food and alcoholic beverages. People celebrated Christmas in their family circles with whatever means they could afford, gifts were simple everyday commodities.
The tradition of the Christmas tree originates in Germany. At first, families would go to a nearby forest select a tree, and cut it. These days, people buy a “farmed” tree, available in different heights. There are also people who prefer an artificial tree in an attempt to protect the environment.
In Germany and other Central European countries, Christmas trees are decorated with baubles, candies, dried fruits, and cookies.
Hessian settlers, and Prince Albert who married Queen Victoria brought over chromes tree decorating to England.
The importance of Santa Claus is a creation of cultural elites and perpetuated by business interests.
It is said some retailers (mostly jewellers) rake in more than 60 per cent of their annual sales towards Christmas.
These days with wide spread use of computers and the Internet, even small children start asking whether or not Santa exists, and if so, where he lives. Certainly not at the North Pole.
It is best children the truth.