Christmas in Bulgaria is a vitally important celebration that involves all family members, old and young alike. Work is halted in the fields and everyone puts their efforts towards cleaning, cooking and preparing for Christmas Eve. It is believed that if the Christmas Eve celebrations go well, all will go well throughout the whole year. Many customs are seeped in rich traditions and charming superstitions complete with elaborate costumes and festive songs. The women of the family arise before daybreak to prepare 12 vegetarian dishes, all representing a month of the year. A holiday round bread is baked and decorated with symbols of all the living creatures in the house. Special walnuts are handed out and everyone cracks them open and reads their fortunes inside. In some regions of Bulgaria, only one gift is given on Christmas Eve and that is from the parents. Father Christmas comes on January 1st. The Bulgarian Santa symbolizes some of his country’s Christmas traditions with the goodies in his sack: a doll dressed in goat costume, goat bells and brightly wrapped packages and toys. He wishes all “Vasela Koleda”, Merry Christmas!
The Canadian Santa and his reindeer travel through miles of snow-covered countryside to fulfill the wishes of boys and girls. An Eskimo mask, toy polar bear, Canadian Mountie doll and giant cookies are sure to delight eager faces on Christmas morn. A thick wool coat and hat trimmed in fur wards off the icy Canadian wind. An extra protection from the wind and snow, Santa has a traditional red blanket wrapped around his shoulders.
It’s been a cold Christmas Eve night throughout much of the world and Father Christmas is ready to find some warmth. He tracks through the snow in a quaint village in Europe and gently peaks in the door. Father Christmas discovers a spruce tree beautifully lit with white lights and shiny ornaments hung everywhere. Oh…what a sight to see! As he sneaks in and quietly delivers his goodies he spies a comfy chair next to the glowing, warm fireplace. He takes a few minutes to sit and ponder the beautiful things before him.
Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Pere Noel or Santa Claus are some of the more common names used to describe a white-bearded, red-cloaked man who delivers presents and cheer. He is a universal figure who appears in many cultures and countries from ancient times.
Father Christmas first appears as a jolly old man as a reaction against the Puritans’ resistance to celebrate Christmas. The 17th century English writer, Ben Johnson, gave 'Sir Christmas' his appearance but it was an American poet who provided Sir Christmas with his long fur-trimmed coat, flowing beard and the sleigh pulled by reindeers. This early 19th century American poet, Clement Clarke Moore, established the modern image of Father Christmas in his poem A Visit from St Nicholas more popularly known as The Night Before Christmas.
The Guiding Light Santa is accompanied by a small child...it could be an angel guiding him on his way, or the Christ Child with little wings. Many cultures believe the Christ Child and Father Christmas come together on Christmas to bring gifts and goodies to the children. Other cultures believe an angel guides him as he travels the dark forest paths to villages tucked into mountainsides. Bringing a religious figure into the tradition of Santa is a balance practiced and appreciated in cultures all over the world.
December 6th is a children's holiday in Poland. That is when St. Nicholas comes calling with gifts of baked pastries, small toys and holy cards. Parents admonish their children to be pious, say their prayers and to do good for others as the Saint did when he walked the earth as Bishop of Myra during the A.D. 300's. The Polish Father Christmas travels through night's darkness guided by the lighted star on his staff. He carries a basket of small toys, fruits and cookies to be left under the tree for good children. He makes his way through sleepy villages tucked under the shadows of surrounding mountians. His joyous and generous Polish spirit is reflected in the beautifully embroidered and traditional colorful costume he wears on this very special and holy night.
Santa considers the Teddy Bear the most popular and loveable toy now and throughout history! Almost every child in America and throughout the European countries has loved a teddy bear during their childhood. Santa’s loves to make teddy bears look like real bears, with extended snouts and beady eyes. Yet, he is also known to make teddy bears with larger eyes and foreheads and smaller noses, baby like features that make them cuter. Sometimes Santa adorns them with clothing and others with a big red bow tie.
The name Teddy Bear comes from the former United States President, Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was "Teddy". The name originated from an incident on a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902. A toy maker, Morris Michtom heard about Roosevelt’s trip and was inspired to create a new toy. He created a little stuffed bear cub and put it in his shop window with a sign that read "Teddy's bear," after sending a bear to Roosevelt and receiving permission to use his name. The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.
At the same time in Germany, the Steiff Company, unaware of Michtom's bear, produced a stuffed bear from Richard Steiff's designs. They exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903 and exported thousands to the United States. By 1906 manufacturers other than Michtom and Steiff had joined in and the rage for "Roosevelt Bears". Ladies carried them everywhere, children were photographed with them, and Roosevelt used one as a mascot in his bid for re-election.
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The legends of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, were first heard by sailors who spread the stories of this great saint’s works while sailing throughout the old world’s waters. This custom led St. Nicholas to become the patron saint of sailors.
Guided by the light houses, towers that were built to hold a bright light to shine over the sea to warn and guide ships, Santa of the Sea brings stories of the sea to the Christmas celebration. He also delivers gifts that any sea-faring family would love; fishing poles and lures, lobster cages and water toys. Santa of the Sea is dressed in knitted sweater and cap while his long coat and waterproof boots keep him warm and dry as he delivers his sea treasures to safe harbors at Christmas.