December 23, 2013


Volume 8, Issue 18 – December 23, 2013


Merry Christmas to All

Not surprisingly, pretty much everyone was gone from campus for the Christmas holiday break when I came by on Friday.  I had taken a few extra days off, since I had maxed out the amount of vacation time I could roll over into next year, and if I didn’t use it, I’d lose it.  I used the time to do some shopping, watch a few movies, and do some house cleaning.

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but the malls and stores don’t seem so busy this year.  Part of it is that people are shopping online more this year—I know I am.  Maybe people are cutting back a bit, though it’s hard to say—they always say that on the news each year, but when the final numbers are in, they’re up once again.

There have been the usual group of Christmas controversies this year, though for most people, the season remains one of good fellowship, peace, and love.


Santa Claus Around the World

The holiday season puts me in mind of Christmas celebrations around the world and the different takes various countries put on Santa Claus.

From Australia (and Hawaii), for example, Santa arrives on a surfboard, which makes sense because Christmas comes in the middle of the summer there.


Australia also has an island dependency named Christmas Island located in the Indian Ocean, which does a large business with people sending Christmas Cards there to be stamped and postmarked.  The island was named by Captain William Mynors of the ship Royal Mary, when he sailed by on Christmas day in 1643.


Among some Native Americans, Santa is a chief whose sleigh is pulled by eight white buffalo.

image005Picture from Illustrator Jesse T. Hummingbird’s “Native American Twelve Days of Christmas” (Clear Light Publishing, 2011)

In Finland, Santa is known as Joulupukki (Yule Buck), who lives with his reindeer in Korvatunturi, on the Arctic Circle.  Finland issued a particularly beautiful set of Christmas stamps in 2010, showing how the holiday is celebrated there as well as how it is celebrated in Japan.


In the Netherlands, Santa arrives on a steamboat from Spain (where he spends the summer) in mid-November.  He is known as Sinterklaas (top left stamp, from which we get our Santa Claus), and is celebrated on the name day of Saint Nicholas, the evening of December 5.  Children put their shoes by the fireplace, central heater, or back door, never forgetting to include a carrot or other treat for Sinterklaas’ horse.  If the children have been good, the shoes are filled with cookies and sweets by Sinterklaas’ helpers, known as Zwarte Piet (top right stamp, Black Peter).  There have been some Christmas controversies recently in the Netherlands too, about the way that Zwarte Piet is depicted (usually as a Moor in 14th century costume), with some claiming he has racist connotations.  As a result, some celebrations have changed the Pieten to multiple or rainbow colors.


In Russia, Santa is known as Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), and is accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochka (Snow girl).  Grandfather Frost leaves his home in Veliky Ustug on a sleigh pulled by three horses, and brings gifts on New Years Day.


 In Germany, Christmas is known as Weihnachten.  Children write to the Cristkind (the Christ Child) asking for presents on the evening December 6.  The Cristkind (sometimes written as Cristkindl, Christmas angel) is often depicted as a girl with long blonde curly hair, wearing a white and gold dress and crown.  She brings presents to children on December 24, as does Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas), who looks like our Santa.


In Spain and many Latin American countries, children may get a small gift from Santa on Christmas, but the main gifts are given by the three wise men (Los Reyes Magos) who come riding camels or horses on Epiphany, January 5.  Children often leave small gifts for the kings, and buckets of water for the camels.


Of course the Santa I remember from my boyhood lived a bit closer to home.  There’s a popular amusement park called “Santa’s Workshop” in the Adirondacks, located in North Pole, NY 12997, where you could even celebrate Christmas in July.  Each year, the post office there gets hundreds of thousands of Christmas cards to postmark.  The amusement park is still there, and you can visit its website by clicking here.


Happy holidays to all!



Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s trivia challenge focused on words that begin with “poly”, and our winner was  Lance Crimm (EE), who was the first to get all five correct.  Others getting all five correct included Bob Brown, Rajnish Singh, Jonathan Lartigue, and Scott Larisch.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Having more than one spouse.  Polygamous.
  2. A figure with more than two sides.  Polygon.
  3. Islands of the South Pacific.  Polynesia.
  4. Margarine is higher in these beneficial fats than butter is.  Polyunsaturated fats.
  5. Having more than one crystalline form.  Polymorphic.

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

There isn’t one.  I’m on vacation!  The trivia challenge will return in the new year.

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3 Responses to December 23, 2013

  1. Bri Morrison says:

    My parents lived in the Netherlands for 3 years. Interestingly, Zwarte Piet is more than just Santa’s helper. The parents tell the children that if they aren’t “good” then Zwarte Piet will take them away in his bag!

  2. spsuvpaa says:

    …and take them to Spain, though I’m not sure why that’s bad! Anyway, Zwarte Piet has mellowed over the years. No more bag for bad children–only sweets and small gifts.

  3. As a guess, Spain is “bad” in the Netherlands because at one time, Spain governed the Netherlands, and the Netherlands later won their independence.

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