Saturday, December 20, 2008

Santa Claus: Christian, Pagan, or Both?

Most of us would be amazed at the way many of our traditions have evolved to their present practices. In North America, many of our traditions have been handed down to us from our European forebears -- and in recent years, many of the American permutations of those traditions have made their way back to the old country.
Most historians agree that the legend of what Americans call Santa Claus comes from Nicholas, the 4th-century Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He is believed to have been extraordinarily kind and generous, so it is not surprising that his persona spawned many different legends and mixed with other historic and mythical figures. In much of Western Europe, St. Nicholas is still portrayed in his flowing bishop's robes.
It was primarily the Dutch who imported the tradition of Sinter Klaas to the colony of New Amsterdam, now New York City, in the 17th century. To this day, the Dutch and Belgians celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, with the exchange of gifts and other centuries-old traditions (many of which come from early pagan myths, such as Sinter Klaas arriving on a flying white horse). Following the Reformation, German Protestants preferred the veneration of the Christkindl (Christ Child) on his own feast day, Dec. 25. The Nicholas figure would not die easily, however, and his celebration was eventually attached to the Dec. 25 holiday. The term Christkindl eventually evolved to Kriss Kringle, another name for Santa Claus.
In the United States, it was the popular writer Washington Irving who first explained the Dutch tradition to the American people in his History of New York (1809). But St. Nick became a full-fledged American icon with the publication of the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" -- more commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clarke Moore. Amazing, the effects of a single poem.
It's easy to see why we are so confused in our Christmas celebrations today. Now that my children are grown, I sometimes wonder how they arrived at any true understanding of Christmas. I also now wonder what I will tell my yet-to-be-born grandchildren. Even what Christians today consider to be a 'pure' Christmas celebration is often riddled with extra-Biblical tradition and conjecture.
Yes, I enjoy the warm fuzzies of the Christmas season, to a degree. But when all is said and done, one thing I know: Santa Claus -- or even St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, can't redeem this sinner's life.
And that's what I'll tell my grandchildren, if nothing else.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's Your Planet -- Go See It!

If you have been a reader of mine for any length of time, you know at least a couple of things about me: I love this planet we're on -- its beauty, its diversity, its people; and I love the adventure of entrepreneurship and the importance of developing multiple streams of income. So in order to provide YOU with a one-stop travel shop -- and to open up an additional stream of income for World to the Wise, I now have my very own TRAVEL PORTAL:

No, I am not a licensed travel agent, nor do I intend to become one. Instead, I have linked arms with Hemisphere Travel, the world's largest private travel provider, with a search engine twice as large as Expedia, the next largest online travel provider. They are the ones making your travel arrangements for you, and they are the ones you will contact directly with customer services issues; but when you book your travel through this website, not only will you find true concierge service, you'll be supporting World to the Wise as we develop into a multi-faceted organization.

Nothing else needs to change for you -- simply save this URL in your Favorites and go there instead of the other guys, knowing that you'll get the same competitive prices and be apprised of some pretty amazing specials from time to time. And when you hear the signal for the first World to the Wise cultural tour, your travel will be booked through this portal.

Check it out: -- whether it's to book flights, cruises, rental cars, hotels, group trips, or ski vacations, we've got you covered. I'll tell you about some more cool features in future posts.

It's your planet -- go see it!