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Right Off the Top of My Head
Do You Believe In Santa?
by Craig Richards   December 25, 2003

As the publisher of FamilyReunion.com, I would like to tell you how grateful we are that you've made us part of your family gatherings for the past few years.

In a December 1999 Vote.com poll, internet surfers were asked, "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" 66% voted "Yes! He spreads Christmas spirit around the world" while only 34% voted "No! Bah, Humbug! Santa's nothing but a marketing ploy."

Since so many of us believe, this special December issue of FamilyReunion.com Connections includes "A Story of Nikolaus" compiled by high school German teacher Martina Muller which covers one of the many myths about the origins of the world's favorite man in red, whether you call him Father Christmas, Father Frost, Joulupukki, Kriss Kringle, Père Nöel, Sabdiklos, Saint Nickolas, Sancte Claus, Santa Claus, Sinterklaas or Weinachtsmann.

I hope you enjoy this December issue of FamilyReunion.com Connections. As always, your feedback is encouraged and welcome.

A thought or two right off the top of my head. We are very interested in your views and opinions.

Until next time we gather around the bright glow of your monitor, we extend to you our

warmest virtual regards,

return to the TOP Craig Richards, Publisher
FamilyReunion.com



Saint Nicholas
A Story of Nikolaus

by Martina Muller

In the 6th century, there lived a rich bishop in the Netherlands by the name of Nikolaus.

He was the head of his parish and owned much land and money because all peasants had to pay taxes to him. Nikolaus was a tall and imposing man who lived in a castle and, as a sign of his wealth, always dressed in a long magenta coat with white fur hemlines and wore a high hat with a golden cross on it.

Nikolaus led a rather non-distinctive life up till his 40th birthday when he had something like a spiritual awakening: On the night before his birthday, he was riding home in his carriage remarking on the bitter cold outside as he passed his parishioners' poor houses.

Looking at his 40th birthday coming the next day, Nikolaus reflected on all the blessings bestowed upon him by life: A warm fire, a rich home, warm clothes, nice fur boots, the admiration of his parishioners... "As he was thinking about his nice warm boots, he suddenly became aware that none of his parishioners had warm shoes but that everyone in his parish was wearing wooden clogs day in and day out and put them on the porches to air out at night.

Santa Claus Nikolaus reports hearing Jesus' voice asking him what kind of shepherd of his people he had been. Jesus also reiterated that "what you do to the lowest of my brothers, you have done to me..."

Nikolaus stopped his carriage right then and there, called on his servants and ordered them to go out into the snowy night, approach the porches of his parishioners quietly and fill the wooden clogs with nuts, raisins, apples and candles.

There was a big joy and excitement the next day and, though Nikolaus had wanted to stay anonymous, people came to thank him for what he had done.

He was so heartened by this that, for the rest of his life, he sent out his servants to fill the shoes of the parishioners on the night before his birthday each year. Having had a "spiritual awakening," Nikolaus turned into a great benefactor of the poor. After his death, he was sainted by the Catholic church.

People in the Netherlands had grown so fond of him and the habit of remembering his birthday that, even after his death, they continued to celebrate it: Parents filled their children's shoes and said "It's from Nikolaus."

Santa Claus Over time, other customs developed: Parents started giving kids who misbehaved a stick instead of treats and said that it was a warning from Nikolaus that, "unless you improve by Christmas day, Nikolaus' black servant Ruprecht would come and beat you with the stick and you wouldn't get any Christmas gifts."

The habit spread to neighboring Germany and England and, when immigrants came to America, they brought the customs with them.

Eventually, Saint Nikolaus evolved into Santa Claus and became smaller, fatter and jollier. He developed a habit of sliding down chimneys on Christmas Eve, got a span of reindeer to pull his sleigh, began feeding on cookies and milk left for him by children hopeful for gifts, and began his now-familiar "Ho! Ho! Ho!" greeting.

Back in Germany and the Netherlands, Nikolaus is still honored according to the old myth: Children leave apples and bread out for his horses on the night of the 6th of December, sing songs about him before they go to bed and wait for his servants to silently fill their shoes. He is still depicted as a tall, white-bearded and dignified.

In Germany, we see more and more jolly and fat Santa Clauses in shopping centers who cheer bypassers and pose with little children on their laps. Sometimes, we even see Nikolaus and Santa Claus in the same shopping mall working side by side.

return to the TOP I sometimes wonder if anyone stops to consider that these two characters are actually representations of the same man fashioned by time and culture...



Fun Puzzle:   The Name Game

Above is this month's free Name Game! Print out as many as you want and pass them around to your friends and family. Just search for words (from the list on the right) that are hidden in the letter grid. Look vertically, horizontally, diagonally and backward to find them all!
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This month's Name Game
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Did you know you can get your own custom Name Game? We create your custom puzzle from words important to your gathering – and we even host your Name Game online FREE at FamilyReunion.com! Folks just load your Name Game in their web browsers and print out as many as they want.

Point your browser to FamilyReunion.com/?serv=namegame.dbf.

return to the TOP Your purchase of our exclusive Name Game service helps support the efforts of FamilyReunion.com to help connect families around the world – We are grateful for your continued patronage and the opportunity to help you Make Fun of Your Reunion!
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