Thursday, December 19, 2013

Has Christmas become the silly season?

FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly, better known her good looks than her deep intellect, recently touched off what seems to be a season of silliness by reassuring her audience that Santa Claus is white and threw in that “Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa — I just want the kids watching to know that.”

When her statement kicked off a national outcry of indignation, Kelly did some quick back-pedaling and later said to a national audience that her words were spoken in “light-hearted segment... a tongue in cheek message for any kids watching …I joked that Santa Claus is a real person whose race is identifiable…”

The entire matter would have died much more quickly if she had merely admitted being in error, and had not tried to tell the world that everyone misunderstood what she had tried to say. The dimmest of viewers and readers don’t like being told they can’t understand English.

The original Saint Nicholas, a historic 4th-century saint and Christian bishop, was born in what is now modern day Turkey. He was noted for his giving of gifts, usually anonymously. He was probably a man with a dark complexion like the current residents of the area. The people of that day had not yet invented the myth of separate races. So ethnic background was not a big factor when talking about people of the era.

Jesus of Nazareth, as far as we know, was also probably similar in appearance to the current inhabitants of the region where he spent most of his life. Today, Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel, and is made up predominantly of Arab citizens of Israel, the same genetic stock as early Israelites. Jesus most likely was similar in appearance to the current people of the region, with a dark complexion.

Saint Nicolas and his tradition of giving migrated to Europe where he took on titles such as Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Père Noël and others. In New England, because of a large percentage of British and Dutch settlers living close to each other, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and Sinterklaas merged into our current Santa Claus.

In 1821, a book called A New-year's present, to the little ones from five to twelve was published in New York. It contained an anonymous poem about Santa and gave him his reindeer sleigh for the first time. In 1823,"A Visit From St. Nicholas" (better known today as "The Night Before Christmas") was published in Troy, New York, and was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore.[

“The Night Before Christmas” completed most of the attributes we know today about the jolly old elf: roof top landings, chimney entrances, carrying a bag full of toys, rosy cheeks and a portly build.

So, to the comely Ms Kelly I would say, our current American image of Santa Claus came from northern Europe from among people with the fair skin that you call “white.” On the other hand, the original Saint Nicholas from present day Turkey was probably a dusky shade, as was Jesus of Nazareth, a resident of what is now the modern Middle East.

Most of us have a skin color mixed over centuries of migrations and intermarriages to a shade somewhere between dark and light. Black and white are terms for opposite ends of the color spectrum, and few ordinary human beings even come close either shade.

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