|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Why is Christmas Day on 25 December?
The Bible offers no date for the birth of Jesus, which probably was not in the year 1AD, but a few years earlier, and may or may not have been in December. The celebration of the birth of Christ on 25 December dates back to the fifth century, when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
The date was chosen to coincide with the winter solstice and the Roman festivals associated with the shortest day of the year, which falls between 22 December and 25 December. This was seen as the day when the Romans celebrated Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – "the birthday of the unconquered sun". It was also Jupiter's birthday and, further back, the birthday of his Greek equivalent, Zeus. In Eastern Europe, the various Orthodox churches – the Russian, Greek, Armenian, Serbian et al, follow the old Gregorian calendar, and in which Christmas Day is 7 January There is no Santa Claus in the Gospels.
Where did he come from?
Nearly 1,700 years ago there was a bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor, who was imprisoned under the last pagan Roman Emperor, Diocletian, but reinstated under Constantine. A cult grew up around him in Greece and spread outwards, and he became the patron saint of children, among others. An old legend about him is that there was a poor man who could not afford dowries for his three daughters, until bags of gold were tossed through an open window by St Nicholas, landing in the stockings drying in front of the fire. In Holland and Germany, there was a custom that St Nicholas was the secret bringer of presents for children on 6 December, his feast day.
When did he start sliding down chimneys?
After the American revolution, New Yorkers tried to rediscover their Dutch roots, and revived the feast of St Nicholas, and his legend. The writer Washington Irving took the mickey out of this revived cult in a satire published in 1809, called Knickerbocker's History of New York. In it, St Nicholas appears as a fat, jolly figure, dressed in fur, with a clay pipe and beard, who slides down chimneys.