Santa Claus, or more properly Saint Nicolas of Myra is one of many early church saints whose legend is better known than any historical facts. As many other saints revered in the Catholic Church, he was moved around in the calendar during the reformation instigated by Martin Luther. The reformers ditched the saints' days and he therefore started to appear on Christmas or New Year instead of December 6. As an early church saint, his devotional day is also strongly rooted in the Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe.
The city of Fribourg is located only 20 miles from Bern, but is today mainly French speaking though it started out as a German (or Alemannic) speaking city. It boasts the only Catholic University in Switzerland and has retained its medieval character throughout the city to this day. If you want to get a feeling for the lifestyle 600 years back, this is the place to visit.
Christina of Sweden was five when her father King Gustav II Adolf fell in the battle of Lützen. Upon his death, her mother Queen Maria Eleonora was put under house arrest and exiled to castle Gripshom. On the express wish of the king, Christina was raised and trained as a prince and not a princess. At 16, she declined to co-rule with a regency council; instead she took full control at 18 when coming of age.
Christians love to put up a Christmas tree before the 25th of December. Many think of it as traditional. Depending on how narrow minded one is, the tradition is either not very old, or rather older than one imagines. The Christmas tree has a history. It was promoted, demoted, forbidden and it developed to its modern form through many stages. Some of its Christian symbolism has even been completely lost.