Christmas Stuffed Animals and the Origins of Santa Clause

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Christmas stuffed animals are as time-honored a tradition as Santa Clause and Christmas trees. During the holiday season, they have become a popular choice of plush toy to both collect and give away as gifts. From Xmas teddy bears to polar bears, there is a Christmas stuffed animal to be found for all tastes.

Santa Clause is easily recognized as one of the major symbols of Christmas. His origins began in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas who became the Bishop of Myra (an area that can be found in present day Turkey). He was noted to be a generous man and quite devoted to children. He died in 340 A.D. and while he was buried in Myra, in 1087, it was reported that Italian sailors stole his remains and moved him to Bari, Italy, where, St. Nicholas’ popularity increased throughout Europe.

St. Nicholas was known to have a reputation for kindness and generosity which in turn gave much credence to the fact that he was able to perform miracles. Not surprisingly, devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas eventually became the patron saint of Russia where he became known for his red cape, flowing white beard, and a headdress called a bishop’s mitre. In Greece, he became known as the patron saint of sailors, in France, the patron saint of lawyers, and in Belgium, the patron saint of travellers and children. Across Europe, thousands of churches were dedicated to him and sometime around the 12th century, in his honor, a holiday was created. On December 6, the celebration of the Feast of St. Nicholas took place and it was a day in which gifts were given and charity was in abundance.

The European followers of St. Nicholas, declined dramatically after the Reformation, however, his legend was kept very much alive in Holland where the spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually changed to Sinterklaas. Wooden shoes would be left by Dutch children by the fireplace and for those that had been good, Sinterklaas would reward them by leaving treats in the shoes. In the 17th century, Dutch colonists brought the tradition to the America and it was here where the Anglican name of Santa Clause was created.

There are no hard and fast rules as to which soft toys can be deemed Christmas stuffed animals. After all, a bright red hat and scarf trimmed in white ‘fur’ like Santa Clause would wear, can be worn on any stuffed animal of your choosing. If it’s a Santa Clause replica you’re looking for, you will have no problem finding Christmas stuffed animals made up to look like him – some will even include a pair of glasses to complete the Clause look.

Copyright Shelley Vassall, 2010

write by Ryder

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