My letter to Santa

Joseph

This piece is probably my most personal piece to date..It is not based on historical facts although the Holocaust victim was a real victim. It is based on my own personal life as a young child, combined with a thought I had about that time.

I came across some pictures of me as a child with St Nicholas(the Dutch Santa).

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At the time time I did not realize that the man dressed as St Nicholas was actually my Father.

When I was 9 my parents divorced which lead to me losing contact with my Father for 18 years. It was only after I got married we reconnected again, due to a few tragedies in the Family. But I don’t want to bore you with those stories, suffice to say we did establish a good relationship from that time onward.

However I do remember writing a letter to Santa when I was 9. All I asked then was for my Father to return. The irony was that the man I asked for my Dad to return was actually my Father.

But here is the thought I had over the last few weeks. How many children must have written letters to Santa asking for nothing but for the friends or classmates to return. Classmates,friends or neighbours who had been deported and murdered in the death camps.

Although the St Nicholas celebration is a Christian tradition, some Jewish children did and still do participate in it.

I still remember what I wrote to Santa when I was aged 9 so I thought I’d use that letter as template but replace the references of my Father with the name Joseph Elias Cohen, the boy whose picture is at the top of this blog, he was born on 8 February 1934 in Amsterdam and killed on 4 June 1943, in Sobibor.

 

“Dear Santa my Friend Joseph Elias Cohen is gone. I don’t know where. All I know that he just vanished without saying goodbye to me.

I am not angry, all I want to know is if he is alright. I miss him.

So Santa this year for Christmas I don’t want any gifts or treats. All I want is when I wake up on Christmas day and walk down to the living room that my Friend is standing next to the Christmas tree, with his arms open wide , ready to give me a hug.

So if you have already wrapped my presents, that is okay , you can give those presenst to other children, all I want is my Friend to come home.

Do you think you can do that?”

As I said except for my own life story and the details of Joseph Elias Cohen, this blog has no historical facts, but I do believe it does make it personal and brings a bit of life into a story of an innocent 9 year old boy who was killed simply for being Jewish.

 

 

 

Will the real Santa Claus please stand up.

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Someone tried to convince me that Santa Claus is a mythical figure.Well if that’s the case who puts my presents under the Christmas tree?

Anyhow!

Santa Claus has many names but they all come from the same historical figure,Nikolaos of Myra(aka Nicholas of Bari)

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. st-nicholasjpgAt the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

A rather offbeat story recounted by Kelly and Rogers, tells of Nicholas visiting a local butcher during a famine. To his surprise, he was served meat. Suspecting the worst, Nicholas proceeded to his host’s cellar, finding three barrels containing three murdered boys in brine. The bishop lost no time in restoring them to life, and “has been a patron of children-in-a-pickle ever since.” His acts of kindness and miracles for children, carried the reputation of Nicholas to the far corners of the Roman Empire.

Some argue that Santa Claus is based on the Norse god, Thor, who was associated with winter and the Yule log and rode on a chariot drawn by goats named Cracker and Gnasher.

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That the historical person of Nicholas became transformed into the kindly Santa Claus from a pagan legend was due to the notoriety he gained by extending a helping hand in the aid of children. His was not an age known for protecting children. Instead they were often left to beg when they lost their parents or lived in poverty.

Other claim he is based on the Germanic god Odin,also known as Wodan.

Georg_von_Rosen_-_Oden_som_vandringsman,_1886_(Odin,_the_Wanderer)

 The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, the British figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas (himself also based on Saint Nicholas).

 

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Nicholas legend was that his story influenced future generations to demonstrate kindness to children, at least once a year. The modern tradition has remained true to the simple bishop of Myra, who devoted his life to helping the poor.

Santa Claus with list

 

Although the traditions are the same there are differences in the different configurations of Saint Nick. I’ll just go through a few of them there are too may to list them all(trust me I checked it twice)

Sinterklaas

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Unlike Santaclaus,Sinterklaas does not travel from the North pole by sleigh and reindeer. No Sinterklaas likes his comfort, he therefor travels from Spain on a steamboat.

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And once he arrives at his destination in the Netherlands he gets on a white horse called Amerigo.

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Rather then doing a last minute Christmas rush Sinterklaas delivers his presents on the 5th of December. Saint Nicholas died on the 6th of December, so the presents are delivered on the eve of St Nicholas’s death.

Father Christmas

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Father Christmas is the traditional English name for the personification of Christmas. Although now known as a Christmas gift-bringer, and normally considered to be synonymous with American culture’s Santa Claus which is now known worldwide, he was originally part of an unrelated and much older English folkloric tradition. The recognisably modern figure of the English Father Christmas developed in the late Victorian period, but Christmas had been personified for centuries before then.

Below are a few more Christmas figures

Joulupukki-Finland

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Mikulás-Hungary

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Ded Moroz-Russia and other Eastern European countries.

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An Irish tradition states that the relics of Saint Nicholas are also reputed to have been stolen from Myra by local Norman crusading knights in the 12th century and buried near Thomastown, County Kilkenny, where a stone slab marks the site locally believed to be his grave.

St_Nicholas'_Tomb

 

I hope you all get the presents you are hoping for.

Regardless of who delivers them. When I was a kid I got them from this man(who was actually my real dad)

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Merry Christmas

Santa's Sleigh House

 

 

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Barrack 66-Camp Westerbork-the Christmas wish of a little boy.

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The Dutch Christmas is slightly different then other Christmas celebrations. On the 5th of December the Dutch celebrate “Sinterklaas” Saint Nicholas,although it is basically the same figure as Santa Claus or Father Christmas. There are subtle differences in the “configuration”

Sinterklaas doesn’t come from Lapland but from Spain and arrives on a steam boat and a white horse rather then a sleigh and reindeer. His helpers aren’t elves but are moors called ‘Zwarte Piet’ Black Pete, and he comes in the traditional dress as a Bishop. Although it is a Christian tradition generally it is celebrated across most religions.

Leo Meijer was a small Jewish boy in September 1942 when he was aged 7 he was taken from his home together with his Family and was deported to Camp Westerbork.

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In December 1943 he wrote the following note to Sinterklaas

“Dear Sint en Piet,I really like the role of mints I got and I now give you the last piece of my Rye Bread for your horse. my father is very ill and I don’t like it in Westerbork, it’s a nasty place. Do you remember from before when I lived in Zwijndrecht you gave me a Trainset. I know you will be coming to Barrack 66, I’ll be there too.”

Leo Meijer attended the Onderdijkschool in Zwijndrecht. When Jewish children had to leave the school, he enrolled at the Jewish school in Dordrecht. Leo Meijer excelled in drawing.

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In 1943 he got drawing paper from Sinterklaas. Leo used this paper to draw his experiences in Westerbork and his memories of the time he lived in his hometown Zwijmdrecht, like the time he went to the Circus and he had seen an elephant.

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Leo and his family were deported from Westerbork to Theresienstadt on 5 September 1944 and subsequently to Auschwitz on 4 October 1944.Where Leo and his mother are send to the gas chambers upon arrival.

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Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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