or Olive skinned, at least, because St. Nicholas was a 3rd century Greek. Here’s some other Santa and Christmas-related miscellany:
The Romans were still around at that point and were still persecuting Christians. Poor families had to pay a dowry to marry off their daughters, or else sell them into sex slavery. Women would wash their stockings and hang them over the fireplace to dry. Nicholas supposedly put dowry money in the stockings of a few girls, which is supposedly the initial origin of the Santa story.
“The other story is not so well known now but was enormously well known in the Middle Ages,” Bowler said. Nicholas entered an inn whose keeper had just murdered three boys and pickled their dismembered bodies in basement barrels. The bishop not only sensed the crime, but resurrected the victims as well. “That’s one of the things that made him the patron saint of children.”
Sounds like it was a scary time to be a kid back then. Even after pickling, enslaving and raping children were no longer as common, children were routinely terrorized by a variety of boogeyman stories. The Germans had a variety of monsters that were mutated combinations of St. Nicholas and older creatures from German and Norse mythology.
Some of these scary Germanic figures again were based on Nicholas, no longer as a saint but as a threatening sidekick like Ru-klaus (Rough Nicholas), Aschenklas (Ashy Nicholas), and Pelznickel (Furry Nicholas). These figures expected good behavior or forced children to suffer consequences like whippings or kidnappings. Dissimilar as they seem to the jolly man in red, these colorful characters would later figure in the development of Santa himself.
Then there is Krampus, who is a Santa-like horned devil who beats bad children and carries them off to hell.
So is there a war on Christmas? Maybe not now, but both the Nazis and Soviets tried to suppress it and introduce alternatives.
In Russia, Santa Claus fell afoul of Josef Stalin. Before the Russian Revolution, Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz) was a favored figure of Christmas who had adopted characteristics of proto-Santas like the Dutch Sinterklaas. “When the Soviet Union was formed, the communists abolished the celebration of Christmas and gift bringers,” Bowler said.
“Then in the 1930s, when Stalin needed to build support, he allowed the reemergence of Grandfather Frost not as a Christmas gift bringer but as a New Year’s gift bringer,” Bowler added. Attempts to displace Christmas in Russia were ultimately unsuccessful, as were Soviet attempts to spread a secular version of Grandfather Frost, complete with blue coat to avoid Santa confusion, across Europe.
“Everywhere they went after World War II, the Soviets tried to replace the native gift bringers in places like Poland or Bulgaria,” Bowler explained. “But local people just sort of held their noses until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 and returned to their own traditions.”