“St Nicholas’ Day is celebrated on 6 December across the world in honour of the benign bringer of gifts. But the story behind the saint, who is the model for Santa Claus, has a much darker history peppered with tales of murder, mutilation, cannibalism and infanticide. It’s a widely known fact that the tradition of Christmas is descended from ancient Pagan rituals, notably the Fertility Festival. This celebration, involving copious food, drink and orgies a‘plenty, fell on the 24th of December, the shortest day of the year. December 25 was venerated as the “birth” of the sun, or the start of the days growing progressively longer.
Most of us are now aware, December 25 was NOT the actual birth of Christ (which is believed to fall somewhere in July), yet in 350 A.D. Pope Julius I decreed that it would be celebrated on that date. A shrewd decision, as it combined the Pagan and Christian festivals (essentially making the Sun and the Son one and the same) and appears to have succeeded in inspiring people to join the Catholic Church–apparently the Pope’s main goal all along.
Incidentally, the tradition of Yuletide cookie making reportedly began in Finland with eight carefully cut cookies, including one whose shape (representing the power “Hel”) corresponds directly to that of the present-day swastika!
St. Nicholas, as stated above, was an actual historical figure who lived in the region of modern-day Turkey during the Third Century A.D. A man of deep faith known for his boundless charity and generosity, St. Nick established many of our most cherished holiday traditions, including the name Santa Claus, which began as a mispronunciation of Sinterklaas, a Dutch contraction of Saint Nicholas.
The tradition that most concerns us is that of leaving out stockings on Christmas Eve, which emerges from a (probably apocryphal) story of how St. Nick helped out three poverty-stricken sisters by tossing bags of gold through each of the girls’ windows at night. This is indeed how the stockings-on-the-mantelpiece tradition got started, but it’s also the source of the three gold balls symbol adopted by pawn-brokers the world over, for whom St. Nick was the patron saint.
According to a traditional French children’s song from the 17th century, three children are killed and chopped up by a butcher in his shop and stowed away in a large salting tub, with overtones of cannibalism. St Nicholas revived them and returned them to their families, hence his reputation as a children’s protector. But by what means or “dark agencies” did he use to do so? And why did he unleash The demon Krampus on ill behaved children, if he is their protector?
In Hungary Santa Claus is known as Mikulas, or “Winter Godfather,” and celebrated via an elaborate series of rituals beginning on December 5, when children take special baths so they’ll be extra clean for Mikulas’ arrival. They also put out shoes for him to fill with goodies (in observance of the “three gold bags” tale outlined above). But here’s the thing: only good children get the goodies. The bad ones get a golden birch so they can be beaten! In Belgium and the Netherlands, these helpers are called Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete) who kidnapped all the naughty children and tied them up in sacks.
Santa’s Evil Companions: European folklore has it that several companions travel with Santa on Christmas Eve. These not-so-nice helpers carry a rod (with which to beat unruly children) and a sack (to kidnap especially bad kids). These include Knecht Ruprecht, or Servent Ruprecht, and the horned incubus Krampus. It’s apparently a tradition in Germany for young men to dress up like Krampus and scare people during the first two weeks of December. So why is this “Holy” figure is always going about his work employing evil helpers to assist him?
And we mustn’t forget Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter. Perhaps the most famous of Santa’s companions, this personage is especially prevalent in the Netherlands and Flanders. The Black in his name isn’t accidental, as Black Peter was originally in some traditions depicted as a devil and others a loyal helper, but in Belgium and the Netherlands, these helpers are called Zwarte Pieten(Black Pete) who kidnapped all the naughty children and tied them up in sacks. This has caused controversy in recent years, with many regarding most of them appear to agree on the fact that Black Peter is a profoundly evil individual.
Devil worship and the cult of St Nicholas is more clearly defined in Germanic folklore. In Austria, Bavaria and Tyrol, the saint is accompanied by the demon Krampus.
Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343), was also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey). He has many miracles attributed to him and other titles include Nikolaos the Wonderworker.”
Many churches in Europe, Russia and the US claim to possess small relics, such as a tooth or a finger. It is said that in Myra the relics of Saint Nicholas each year exuded a clear watery liquid which smells like rose water, called manna (or myrrh), which is believed by the faithful to possess miraculous powers. A flask of this liquid is extracted from the tomb of Saint Nicholas every year on 6 December by priests.
He is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, bakers, pawnbrokers and students.