Santa Claus: executed The booklet of LviStrauss on the origins of Christmas traditions - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


PPT – Santa Claus: executed The booklet of LviStrauss on the origins of Christmas traditions PowerPoint presentation | free to view - id: 1e674-NTQ4O


The Adobe Flash plugin is needed to view this content

Get the plugin now

View by Category
About This Presentation

Santa Claus: executed The booklet of LviStrauss on the origins of Christmas traditions


the origins of Christmas traditions. Vesa Matteo Piludu. Imatra, 2009 ... The Christmas fir mixes separate traditions: the magic tree, the fire, the never ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:115
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Slides: 51
Provided by: hels


Write a Comment
User Comments (0)
Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: Santa Claus: executed The booklet of LviStrauss on the origins of Christmas traditions

Santa Claus executed! The booklet of
Lévi-Strauss on the origins of Christmas
  • Vesa Matteo Piludu
  • Imatra, 2009

University of Helsinki Department of Art
Research, Semiotics
Santa connects the unconnected!
  • As all of you are aware, the original Santa
    Claus live in Korvatunturi fell, near Rovaniemi,
    far north in Finnish Lapland!
  • Santas webpage http//

Strange but a real post office!
  • From Santas webpage
  • Santa Claus Main Post Office, a building of
    handsome natural stone and aged pine, is in
    Santas Workshop Village on the Arctic Circle.
  • There you can feel the Christmas spirit every day
    of the year and be served by merry post office
    elves in seven languages!
  • Each year, Santas Workshop Village and the Main
    Post Office are visited by about half a million
    people. You can come, too!

A Swede Santa on the beach
Grandfather Frost and the Snowmaiden
  • The Russian Ded Moroz (??? ?????) plays a role
    similar to that of Santa Claus
  • He brings presents to children, during the
    celebrations of the New Year
  • It has a granddaughter Snegoruchka, the
    beautiful Snowmaiden.
  • Unfortunately she melts away every spring but
    returns each winter much to everyones delight.

American Santas gym
The Italians have strange (miss)conceptions
about Santa
The Japanese Santa - Hello Kitty
Santa Black Cat
France, 1951 Burn, Santa! Burn!
  • The 24th of December 1951
  • the newspaper France-Soir titled
  • Santa Claus has been burned
  • in front of the Dijons Cathedral!
  • 250 children were obliged to be present and some
    of them burn the beard of a Santa puppet
  • The French priests defined the
  • just-burned an heretic and an usurper
    and accused him to be a dangerous element of
    paganisation of the truly Christian spirit of
    the festivities
  • The clerks wrote
  • Santa has been sacrificed in a holocaust!
  • A falsehood couldnt reawake the religious
    feeling in our children!

Santa according to the Dijons priests heretic,
pagan, usurper, a bad example for children …
Santa was executed in front of the Cathedral
Notre Dame of Dijon
Crucified Santa
Another Santas funeral in 2000
Freaky Christmas 2 Santa raises again!
  • With the total disappoint of the new inquisitors
  • Santa raised again from the ashes, after few
  • Exactly at the 1800, 24th of December 1951, in
    the City Hall of Dijon. The just-killed Santa
    spoke to the children from the roof of the city
    hall, as all the years!
  • The City authorities decided
  • to save the poor Santa from the
  • atrocities of the local Church

The media reactions and the problem of
  • Generally, all the French newspapers accused the
    cruelty of the Djions priests, asking Whats
    wrong with Santa? Hes so cute, and the Children
    like him so much!
  • According to Levi-Strauss, the central problem
    wasnt if the children liked Santa or not, but
    why the adults created Santa.
  • (Lévi-Strauss C., 2002 (third edition).
    Babbo Natale giustiziato, Sellerio, Palermo. Page

Inversion of roles
  • Lévi-Strauss noticed
  • that in the weird Djions affair priests
    burned religious traditions …
  • While politicians, rationalists and atheists
    defended and resurrected Santa
  • There was a clear inversion of social roles

Santa USA
  • Lévi-Strauss noticed that Christmas wasnt so
    important in France before
  • the 2nd World War
  • The status of the Christmas clearly upraised with
    the influence of the USA
  • But the USAs imperialism
  • and the Marshalls plan cant be conceptual
    jollies to explain all the problems of modern
    French popular culture

Kroebers stimulus diffusion
  • Lévi-Strauss citated Kroebers theory of the
    stimulus diffusion to explain the rapid diffusion
    of the modern Christmas in France
  • an imported custom is like a catalytic center
    it brings the creation of a similar native custom
    that was in a potential state in the influenced
    culture (Ibidem, page 53)

A confuse Christmas fir
  • The modern Christmas version doesnt invent
    nothing, it only resets confusedly elements of
    different tradition and times
  • Even the Christmas fir isnt an homogeneous
  • At the time of Littré, our famous Christmas tree
    was only a poor fir branch ornamented with sweets
    and games for children
  • The Christmas fir mixes separate traditions the
    magic tree, the fire, the never ending light, the
  • (Ibidem, pages 54-56)

Santas analysis
  • Santa Claus, according to Lévi-Strauss is a kind
    of king dressed in red, color of royalty
  • The clothes, the beard, the sledge are all winter
  • In Italian is called Babbo Natale (Daddy
  • Santa is old and represent the kind aspect of the
    authority of the old ones

Santa Cult
  • According to Lévi-Strauss Santa is a kind of
    semi-god … and the children venerate him during
    the Christmas sending letters and prays
  • Santa rewards the good ones and punish the bad
  • Its a divinity revered only during the childhood
  • The adult dont believe in Santa, but they
    encourage their Children to believe in him
  • (Ibidem, pages 58-59)

Santa and Katchina (Pueblo, South Wests Natives)
  • The katchinas are Hopi parents disguised and
    masked … they incarnates ancestors
  • The masked parents returns periodically to the
    villages to reward or punish children

Santa and Katchinas had the same moral
  • According to Lévi-Strauss the Katchinas and Santa
    have the same function convince children to be
    obedient and kind
  • The Christmas time limits the request of children
    in a certain part of the year

The identity of the Katchinas
  • Leví-Strauss consider the Christmas a situation
    in which there is a translation and an exchange
    between generations
  • The same situation is found in the Hopi
    traditions of the Pueblos
  • The katchinas are the souls of the first native
    children, disappeared in a river during the
    period of the mythical emigrations
  • The katchinas went back periodically to the
    pueblo villages and they took some children with
  • The parents asked the katchinas to stay in the
    otherworld they will represent them during the
  • The katchinas are a manifestation of the death
    and at the same time a representation of life
    after death
  • The katchinas are the children, the humans that
    are nearest to the world of the souls … as the
    newborn came from the world of the dead

Life and death
  • In the katchina rituals the initiates are the
    adults, the living ones, the masked
  • The uninitiated are the children, unmasked,
    representing the souls of the dead children
  • The exchange between the adults and children
    represents and exchange between life and death

Santa and the Lords of Misrule
  • Lévi-Strauss (page 65) argued that the original
    figure of Santa could be a bricolage of many
    different characters
  • The ancient Roman Saturnus
  • Abbé de Liesse
  • Abba Stultorum
  • Abbé de la Malgouverné
  • Lord of Misrule
  • The Scandinavian Julebok
  • Saint Nicolaus Nicola
  • All this figures were kings during the
    Christmas time or in December, the darkest month
    of the winter, fulfilled with souls and ghosts

  • Saturn or Saturnus
  • deity of harvest
  • from serere, " to sow."
  • the lord of the fieldfruits
  • Saturn's wife was Ops
  • Saturn was the father of Ceres and Jupiter
  • Saturday is dies Saturni
  • Saturn was the first King of Latium
  • (from Latere)
  • His city was on the top of the Capitoline Hill
    (Saturnia). He is said to have had an altar at
    the foot of the Capitol before Rome was founded.
  • King of the Golden Age

Temple of Saturn in Rome the older temple
dated from 497 BC but the ruins are from 42 BC.
It contained the treasure of the Roman state.
The Saturnalia
  • The celebration in honour of Saturnus were
    celebrated from the 17th to the 24th of December
  • The saturnalia were the festival of the larvae,
    the souls of the spirits dead in violent
    circumstances or without a proper burial
  • The Church decided to fix the Christmas more or
    less in the same days to cover the pagan

  • The Saturnalia had carnivals aspects, but the
    festivity had also strong aspects of social
  • The slaves were served by the patrons
  • The children, near to the souls world, received
    presents, puppets and candles
  • The festival was a celebration
  • of the Golden Age

A Medieval evil Santa the abbot of unreason
  • Scotland had an official similar to the English
    Lord of Misrule, known as the Abbot of Unreason
    (suppressed in 1555), and both are thought by
    scholars to be descended from the king or
    bishop who presided over the earlier Feast of
  • The abbot had a senseless conduct, including
    blasphemy, robbery and, in some extreme cases,
    homicides and rapes

Abbé de Liesse
  • He was a bishop-child, elected by an invocation
    of Saint Nicolas
  • He was in charge the 25th of December
  • Other bishop-children were proclaimed the 28th of
    December, the day of the Innocent
  • In England there was this great tradition that
    on the feast of St Nicholas... a child, the
    smallest chorister of the choir, became the
    bishop The Reverend Carrie Thomps on BBC,
    Monday, 8 December 2008

Old Christmas as Halloween?
  • The Medieval Christmas time, as the Saturnalia,
    mixed element of solidarity with the most brutal
  • The Abbé de Liesse was enthroned by the
    authorities and he should control that the excess
    didnt overflow into violence
  • What about the other children? They wander masked
    from home to home singing … and they receive
    fruit and sweets
  • The Medieval Christmas was something very similar
    to Halloween

Ghost-Children singing deaths songs … and
waiting for sweets or bread
  • The Scottish children sung these verses during
  • Rise up, good wife, and be no swier (lazy)
  • To deal your bread as longs youre here
  • The time will come when youll be dead,
  • And neither want nor meal nor bread
  • The children were representative of the world of
    the dead, mentioning death in the songs … and
    they expect a proper behavior from the adults
    (generosity, activity)
  • All this elements are quite evident in modern
  • According to some traditions, Saint Nicolas
    resuscitates dead children

Julebok Joulu pukki Christmas Goat
  • Its a goat-demon of Scandinavian origins, lord
    of the subterranean world. It gave children
  • In Finland … joulupukki or nuuttipukki was a man
    disguised in goat-man clothes, symbol of death
    and fertility, a bit shamanistic
  • The nuuttipukki asked for alcohol and was
    dreadful for children
  • Sometimes the nuuttipukki gives children
    presents, if they were kind
  • the nuuttipukki figure was transformed in the
    modern joulupukki, Santa Claus … even if in his
    name he is still a goat (pukki) of Christmas

The Christmas elves or gnomes
  • In Scandinavia and Finland Santa is helped by
    elves or dwarves (tonttu in modern Finnish)
  • As for Julebok, also these fantastic creatures
    are connected to the underground world of death
    and fertility
  • Tomte in ancient Swedish means Master spirit
  • The dwarves are a recent addition to Christmas
  • (XIX century)

The Befana
  • In Italy Babbo Natale (Santa) has a curious
    female counterpart the witch-like Befana, who
    gives sweets to the children on 6th of January.
  • This Befana appears to be heir at law of a
    certain heathen Sabine/Roman goddess called
    Strenia, who presided over the new-year's gifts,

La Befana vien di notte!
  • La Befana vien di notte Con le scarpe tutte
    rotte Col vestito alla romana Viva, Viva La
  • The English translation is
  • The Befana comes by night With her shoes all
    tattered and torn She comes dressed in the Roman
    way Long life to the Befana!

A matter of death and life!
  • All these traditional winter celebrations
    (saturnalia, Hopis Katchinas, Medieval and
    Scandinavian Christmas traditions, Halloween and
    even Carnivals) … seems to be marked by a common
  • All this rituals celebrates social roles
    inversions and an exchange between the living and
    the dead the dead spirits (children or
    Goat-demons) will leave the winter only after
    receiving presents ... After these rituals the
    spring and the life will come back
  • The dead role isnt only negative, they are also
    life-bringer the dead ancestor s will resurrect
    in the newborns

To rise Hell in children is to express otherness
  • During the winter festivities there was a real
  • sometimes the adults represent the dead souls
    (the Julebok and the nuuttipukki) … but more
    often the representative of the ghosts are the
    children (Ancient Rome, Medieval Christmas,
    Halloween)… which are less incorporated in the
    social system
  • The dead celebrations of winter are first of all
    festivals of otherness (children, slaves,
    immorality) … as the dead are the other par

Santa Claus and Saint Nikolaus
  • Lévi Strauss didnt analyze in deep the relation
    between Santa Claus and Saint Nikolaus …
  • But there is a relevant similitude between them
  • Santa Claus is an abbreviation of Saint Nikolaus,
    who wasnt Finn at all … Nikolaus was born in
    Myra, in modern Turkey
  • It was a bishop, so he has the typical red
    clothes of the bishops
  • Nikolaus was a protector of young ladies and
    saved tree young virgins from a destiny of
    prostitution throwing money through their window

The dowry for the three virgins (Gentile da
Fabriano, c. 1425, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome).
Saint Nikolaus
  • Later Saint Nikolaus became the protector of the
    children, of the seamen, of the cattle, of bears…
    and the patron of the whole Russian Orthodox
  • According to the Christian tradition it was
    buried in South Italy, in the Baris Cathedral of
    San Nicola
  • From South Italy, his cult spread in all
    continental Europe
  • Saint Nikolaus is a strong and clear
    representation of Christian solidarity and

Gentile da Fabriano, c. 1425. Pinacoteca Vaticana
San Nicolas cathedral, Bari, Italy
The tomb of San Nicola in Bari, as it appears
Russian Icon of Saint Nikolai
The feast of the Translation
  • In May (9 or 22) the Russian Orthodox Church
    celebrate the feast of the "Translation of the
    Relics of Saint Nicholas from Myra to Bari".

Who is the modern Santa Claus?
  • Obviously a kind of cultural Frankenstein or
  • He incorporates in a creative way elements of
    quite all the past Winter festivals fantastic
    figures analyzed by Lévi-Strauss
  • At the same time Santa is the representation of
    an ideal of generosity
  • He is someone that gives without the desire to
    have something back. In this he resembles clearly
    the old Saint Nikolaus.