The holiday season is upon us! People all over the world are gathering together with family and friends to celebrate different traditions one of which revolves around the legend commonly known as Santa Claus. Much has been told and marketed about the red-coated, gift-bearing, reindeer-riding jolly old man of Germanic, Scandinavian, Dutch and Greek Christian folklore.
Perhaps less well known is China's very own Jia Deng (贾登). He was a remarkably skilled and brave hunter in Xinjiang’s Kanasi region. No one was ever able to find his tracks and with a wolf he raised since it was a pup, no prey, not even bears, was a match for Jia Deng. In the dead of night, Jia Deng would secretly put prey he caught in front of the yurts of those who could not afford food. For decades, families would wake up and find food left in front of their homes and not know whom to thank. One day, the food suddenly was no longer on people’s doorsteps. By the sixth day, they were concerned that something might have happened to their hero so they organized a search. After a month of searching, they found an old man in a cave high up on a mountain who had recently passed away. He had hair and a beard white as snow. He lay there peacefully next to hunting gear. The people assumed this man was the kind benefactor who took care of them for so many years. They brought him to their village and buried him with their own people. Every year, they remember the day they found him up in the mountains and honor his memory.
This story has been passed down from generation to generation for the past 400 years. Today, there is a valley named after him called the Jia Deng Valley (贾登峪) in the Kanasi region. It is a beautiful part of China, near the northwest-most point, bordering Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia and has an 80-acre conservation land which many tourists frequent every year.
While cultures around the world might have a different name for Santa Claus and the specifics of his story might vary, the importance of the man is the same. This time every year, we celebrate love, kindness, and generosity.