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The History of Santa Claus and Chimneys

 

Did you ever wonder why Santa Claus comes down your chimney?


In order to answer that question we have to go back to the origins of Christmas. The tradition of Santa Claus entering homes through the chimney is shared by many Europeans that celebrate Christmas. In pre-Christian Norse tradition, Odin would often enter through chimneys and smoke holes or fire holes on the solstice, which marks the beginning of winter. Italians have a similar tradition, in which an old woman or Befana delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve or the night of January 5. The Befana or gift-giving witch is covered with soot from her trips down the chimneys of children's homes.


When the tradition immigrated with European settlers to North America in the 1800’s, the tradition of Santa Claus entering homes on Christmas followed. In those days, the winters were extremely frigid and it wasn’t prudent to leave doors or windows open for Santa Claus to enter. In the early 1800’s in most homes, smoke was exhausted out of the homes by smoke-holes in the roof.  Chimneys were used in by those who were better off and more luxurious buildings. When chimneys replaced smoke-holes, it was customary to let Father Winter/Father Christmas/Santa Claus enter the house was though the chimney because it was always "open".


Well times have certainly changed. So much so that Santa can now shrink himself down so that he can enter through keyholes. Only 40.3% of homes in the U.S. have fireplaces, according to the HPBA, forcing St. Nicholas to find another way to make his grand entry into those homes that don’t have chimneys.


If Kris Kringle was planning his ideal gift delivery route, he would probably find it easier to visit those homes in the Northeast, where 58% of new single-family homes feature at least one fireplace according to a 2011 census. The Western states came in second where 53% of new homes have fireplaces. Some other interesting statistics on fireplaces are:


•    57% are located in the living room
•    38% are located in the family room
•    6% can be found in the master bedroom
•    5% can be found in in the dining room
•    3% can be found in in the library/home office
•    3% can be found in in the kitchen

Although times have changed, one thing hasn’t, as sure as God made little green apples; Jolly St. Nick will be making his journey on Christmas Eve to visit all the little girls and boys on his nice list. If you’re looking for gift ideas for him this year, maybe he’ll appreciate a nice warm fireplace!

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