ISSUES OF FAITH: Does Santa drink ginger ale?

EVERYBODY KNOWS SANTA, the Christ-free saint of stuff. He was turned into a pop culture icon by an Atlanta marketing executive who sold ice-cold bubble brew. The world cherished his product as the liquid form of liberty and opportunity; but only when the temperatures were high. Atlanta’s sales numbers took a deep dive into the toilet as soon as Americans began their seasonal love affair with a miss from Switzerland. Something had to be done. Black sugar water can’t just be America’s favorite drink when the sun shines. No matter the weather, when Americans are thirsty, the Atlanta bubble brew should pop into their minds.

Then he had a ground-shaking idea. Why reinvent the wheel when you can steal one?

A rival soda outfit fought the American desire for hot cocoa in the winter with Saint Nicholas. A guy with a white beard dressed in red who was crazy about their ginger-ale.

Let’s take that guy, shorten his name, make him super jolly and, of course, he doesn’t gulp down ginger ale. Who in his right mind drinks a summer drink like ginger-ale in the winter?

From now on, we call him Santa, and he drinks the quintessential all-American, all-year drink from Atlanta! And so, the greatest marketing success this planet has ever seen was born.

Santa didn’t start his career in a soda factory in Georgia.

The sled-wielding gift bringer entered history as a Christian Bishop. As far as we know, he was born on March 15, in 270 AD, in Asia Minor. He died on Dec. 6, in 343 AD. Nobody knows for sure if these dates are accurate. The earliest written accounts of his adventures emerged centuries after his death.

One of the most famous stories told is that of the poor man who had three daughters. He was too poor to give them a dowry. A dowry is money that the bride brings into a marriage. If you had no dowry, no one would marry you.

In Antiquity, life for poor unmarried women could be very difficult. If she had no male relatives, her fate could very well lead her into prostitution. Saint Nicholas wanted to save the girls.

One night, the saint snuck up to the poor man’s house. Hidden by the velvet darkness, he threw a bag of gold through the window and then he ran away.

The saint is also famous for secretly putting coins into the shoes of poor children. One day he calmed a storm, another day he saved soldiers from being unjustly executed.

One really good day, he resurrected three children who were slaughtered by a butcher. The murderous meat merchant had preserved them in brine and wanted to sell them as pickled pork during a famine.

Pope Eugene IV made him an official saint in 1446. Over time, a tradition developed in Europe, that on the day the saint died, on Dec. 6, secret gifts were given, especially to children.

It was a well-loved tradition until Martin Luther kicked off the Reformation in 1517. He slaughtered many Holy Cows and he also messed with Saint Nicholas Day. Luther changed the gift giving to Christmas, Jesus’ birthday. He said the Christ child would bring the presents, not some Roman Catholic saint. He was persistent, loud and most likely obnoxious. Over time, everybody accepted the idea that gifts were given on Christmas.

Many different folk traditions come together in the figure of Santa, Saint Nick, Sinter-class, father Christmas, or however you call the secret gift giver. Its origins in Europe reach back to pre-Christian Yuletide celebrations. Those traditions mingle with stories about the Greek Saint Nicholas. The Christmas icon comes into a form we would recognize in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1920s, the Atlanta bubble water consortium lit the afterburner on the tradition.

Santa took off like a rocket. When his sled zooms around the globe, many people forget that Jesus is the reason for the season. The Atlanta bubble empire did not invent Santa, but the success of their marketing campaign proves you don’t have to be the first to create something truly iconic. Cheers!

________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Olaf Baumann, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. www.go2trinity.org, www.olaf-baumann.com.

More in Life

CutlIne: What beautiful long ears and adorable eyes he has! Meet Rio,  a mammoth donkey who grew to 16’2 hands tall.
HORSEPLAY: Want a donkey? A beginners guide to donkey care

GOT THE URGE to bring home a cute, adorable miniature donkey? I’ve… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “Heart Centeredness” at… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Good habits build character for your garden

LET’S RECAP WHERE we are so far this year. I am back… Continue reading

“Against all Odds: Abandonment to Olympian, A Tribute to Joe Rantz” by Catherine Bilyard is one of 41 quilts on display in Sequim Museum & Arts through the end of March as part of the “Inspiration/Exploration” exhibit. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Joe Rantz quilt highlighted at Sequim museum

Tribute among 41 pieces in show

Sunday program set for OUUF

Joseph Bednarik will present “Sex and the Dictionary” at… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Cut away what holds growth back

IT’S FEBRUARY AND time to begin pruning the vineyards in Eastern Washington… Continue reading

Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News

A perch on the bowsprit affords these spectators a wide open view of competing boats in a previous year's regatta on Port Townsend Bay.
Shipwrights’ Regatta set for Saturday

The sailboat racing season opens Saturday with the Port… Continue reading

Mason bee lecture scheduled

Carrie Morlag will discuss raising mason bees at 10 a.m.… Continue reading

Work to learn in Sequim Saturday

John Hassel will demonstrate how to prune roses at 1… Continue reading

Geology lecture set Saturday

Brian Sherrod will present “High-resolution dating of a multi-fault… Continue reading

Wool spinning demonstration set

Dean Hyden will demonstrate the use of a spinning… Continue reading

Red, Set, Go! Heart Luncheon set for Friday

The Olympic Medical Center Foundation will host the 16th-annual… Continue reading