Is Santa Chinese? On the Trail of Santa Claus and der Weihnachtsmann

Fu Lu Shou

Ceramic figurines of the Chinese gods Shou, Lu and Fu. What do they have to do with Santa and the Weihnachtsmann? PHOTO: Ridone Ko – Flickr

I’ve written about it before, but this Christmastide I’m delving a little deeper into the traditions of the season of giving and its central figure: Santa Claus, Weihnachtsmann, Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), Père Noël, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Babbo Natale, Julemanden, and so on. If you aren’t already aware of the many Germanic aspects of Santa Claus and Christmas, you can read about it on our German Way Christmas pages. While the German-American St. Nick connection and the “German” pickle ornament myth are fascinating, I know there’s more to the Santa Claus story than most people think. Continue reading

Germany’s Colonial Past

Today is the German national holiday, known as German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit). October 3 only became a holiday in 1990 after German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before that, East Germans celebrated their national day on October 7, the date of the founding of the German Democratic Republic in 1949. Few West Germans could have told you the date of the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (May 23, 1949), and there was no West German equivalent of the American Fourth of July. Even the October 3 observance is pretty tame compared to Independence Day in the US. Nationalistic flag-waving is not really a German thing (except at soccer matches).

So it comes as a bit of a surprise, even to most Germans, to learn of Germany’s colonial past. Unlike Britain, Spain, Portugal and other European powers, Germany (Prussia) came late to the colonial game. Nevertheless, the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) extended its reach to territories located in Africa, the South Pacific and even China. Continue reading