Sunday, December 5, 2010

Angels and Demons and Santa Claus

Saint Nickolas
The phenomenon of Santa Claus is an adaptation of the legend of Saint Nickolas, who was the bishop of Myra in the fourth century AD. He’s the patron saint of, among others, sailor, which makes him interesting to me (because I am one).

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet
The Santa Claus tradition is upheld pretty much everywhere in the Christian world, but it’s always a great pleasure to see a local interpretation that is ultimately foreign to, well, a foreigner. In the Netherlands, where I grew up, folks are visited by Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who give gifts and spread treats. In the olden days Black Pete was known to shove bad kids in his bag and drag them off, but recently such pedagogic measures are no longer appreciated. The name Sinterklaas, or Saint Nickolaas, became Santa Claus in the English language area. Saint Nickolas is also the patron saint of merchants, which may explain why his appearance coincides with the most lucrative commercial period in the year.

Tonight I was in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which is predominantly Catholic, where I was introduced to the Slovenian interpretation of the Santa Claus tradition. Amidst huge Christmas trees and myriads of strings of little shiny lights, people gathered and sang songs and drank hot chocolate. The atmosphere seemed like something out of Little House on the Prairie, so sweet and homey. The star of the show, Santa Claus, stood high on the stairs of the central church, in a shiny cloud of little kids dressed like angels. On the square below roamed a troupe of the most gruesome devils.

A Slovenian devil

Most peculiar was that this whole thing was a static setting. The angels and demons roamed about a bit but there was no sign of some great battle or any indication that the situation would be resolved, or even what Santa Claus had to do with it. In fact, some of the angels were observed to taking a liking to some devils, and by the end of the event, most devils had an angel or two hanging from their arm, as the entire town’s population drew towards the nearby café’s and began to enjoy the comforts of the jolly season and each other without discrimination.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...