The Invisible Web

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Archive for December 25th, 2008


Posted by invizweb on December 25, 2008

With 86% of Americans having a belief in Santa Klaus until age 8 (AP-AOL, 2006), Jolly Saint Nick is perhaps one of the most recognizable figures in the USA. The story goes that from the North Pole, Santa emerges from his House each year to dispense gifts to children who are obedient to their parents each year. His house according to North American lore is located in the North Pole, where he lives with his wife “Mrs. Klaus.” In workshop hidden from the world, meek elves in his employ make toys and other presents to the believing, which are delivered to Jolly Old Sat Nick some time before Christmas. When Christmas Eve arrives, Santa and his team of eight reindeer fly across the world. Santa enters home through chimneys and eats cookies left by children.

As written in the past few days, this tradition is not universal; i.e. reindeer do not live in the North Pole, factually, so many European traditions locate the Reindeer of Santa in Lapland, Finland. Originally, the figure celebrated for bringing holiday cheer for the British whom would colonize the US, was traditionally Father Christmas, whose origin was the 17th Century when The Protestant ban on Christmas feasts was lifted. He was a man draped regally as if he was royalty. The modern interpretation of Santa Klaus, a large jolly man full of spirit was only popularized in the mid 19th Century, but was iconized by the drawings of former Playboy illustrator Haddon “Sunny” Sundblom as ads for the Coca Cola Company in the 1930s. This was after Father Christmas and the legendary Bishop of Lycia, Turkey, Saint Nicholas of Myra were syncretized. Nicholas was a holy man reputed to have resurrected three children butchered and paid for the dowry of three women, thus preventing them from entering a life of slavery.

Knight Rupert, or Knecht Ruprecht, as he was named originally in German folklore, protects Santa Klaus with staves. He also uses his rod to discipline “misbehaving children.” Contrasting with Santa, Rupert wars dark colored clothes and has generally uncouth hair and facial hair. Due to his strong resemblance to Odin, he is believed to be a modernization of the Highfather so much to the extent that the NAZIs attempted to replace Santa with Rupert believing him to be a corrupted form of the ancient deity. In some traditions, Rupert and Santa have been merged (something like the fusions in Dragon Ball Z and the combining in Transformers I guess) into one entity: Ru Klaus (Eng: Rough Nicholas), who is both the giver of gifts and the dispenser of punishment. Knight Rupert is also linked with Saint Rupert in Switzerland.

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YuleTide: Santa Klaus and His Companions #6 – La BEFANA (and STRENUA?)

Posted by invizweb on December 25, 2008

There is a story about a woman.  On one night each year she goes searching for her lost child. Sounds like La Llarona? It isn’t. It is the tradition gift giver of rural Italian winter holiday celebrations: La Befana. La Befana is described as a frightening crone whom “is as kind as she is ugly.” She wears a scarf and has a large mole on her nose. On Epiphany, January 6th, in Urbania (of Central Italy) and other towns in Southern Italy, she flies into homes on her broom stick (through keyholes where there are no chimneys) giving “good” children a “bag of goodies,” which include but is not limited to candy. She also gives children coal (and perhaps a bop with her broom). In return, families leave her a stocking filled with fruit (oranges, again?) and a glass of vino.

The name La Befana first appeared in a poem in 1594.  Legends of La Befana place the woman to the Biblical Era. In one tale, the three magi who were searching for the soon-to-be born Jesus receive shelter and food from her when she cannot provide directions to Bethlehem, or her accompaniment on the journey due to the need of sweeping. She realizes her mistake too late, and thus wanders the world searching for Jesus to this day. In another variation she continually searches for Jesus due to sadness in losing her own child. Yet in another version, she is a widowed Princess who retreats to the wilderness and becomes a witch. In this telling, Jesus searches and finds her and offers her the role of “the Mother of All Children,” which she accepts.

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