The customs which we celebrate in America for Christmas, which means “Christ’s Mass,” come from a number of countries. Santa Claus himself comes from a Dutch Bishop, Saint Nicholas, who brought presents to the needy and the young, and was brought to the New World by, among others, Columbus, who named a Haitian port for St. Nicholas in 1492, and by the Spanish, who named what is now Jacksonville, Florida, St. Nicholas Ferry.
However, it was New Year gift giving, which began in England as early as 1558, that was the custom in America until the early 19th century. It took New Yorker Washington Irving, of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Rip Van Winkle fame, to popularize St. Nicholas and his image as a jolly, rotund figure, through a satire published in 1809. Still, the image of the gift-giving Santa Claus developed slowly, assisted by Thomas Nast, the famous American artist who, during the Civil War, portrayed Santa Claus as a Union supporter and rotund fellow with a long beard, dressed in red fur garments.
Even as late as the early 20th century, Santa Claus was still often referred to as St. Nicholas, and only after Coca Cola’s 35-year commercial use of Santa Claus in advertisements during the mid-1900’s was he established firmly in American culture. Norway is supposed to have given us the custom of Santa Claus coming down the chimney. One legend has St. Nicholas throwing gold coins down a poor family’s chimney, so his gift would be anonymous, and the coins landing in a stocking hung there to dry.
Pagan converts to Christianity used their sacred tree, the evergreen, to symbolize the holiday, and decorated the tree with candles, which represented the light that Christ brought to earth, and nuts. Mince meat pie, with its spices and fruits, symbolizes the exotic treasures of the three Wisemen. Icicle decorations are thought to symbolize the frozen tears of happiness coming from trees that realized that the child Jesus had taken shelter under their branches.
Finally, the Yule (wheel) log symbolizes the sun, which pagans thought stood still for 12 days at the end of each year; the log burns for 12 days to get rid of the evil of the previous year.
As the founder and managing director of Destination Sitters, LLC, a national hotel and event babysitting service, and the mother of two children, I strongly believe that family comes first. I personally needed babysitting when I moved to San Diego 14 years ago. Like most parents, I assumed there were standards for temporary babysitting; in reality, there are no state standards or licensing requirements for temporary babysitting. The idea for Destination Sitters was born! I wanted to Give Parents Peace of Mind® when traveling with their children, so I created strict screening requirements for the sitters we refer. There is nothing like the peace of mind that comes from getting great professional help to care for your children, especially when traveling away from home. I and my partners, along with our office staff, have that one goal in mind with everything we do.
Through the years of working with children, I have been inspired to write three books, and this blog for parents’ and children’s wellbeing. I believe the best way to teach a child is leading by example, with love, honesty, integrity, compassion, perseverance, and personal responsibility. Learning these values and teaching children that all women and men are equal will encourage them to dream big to be anything they want to be!
An entrepreneur for over 35 years, I previously spent years running a construction and design company with two offices in California and built million-dollar estates and remodeled existing ones. For three and half years, I was one of the primary designers on HGTV’s Curb Appeal. I have also been published in books, magazines and newspapers, and have been a featured designer in multiple showcase houses.
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