The origin of Santa Claus
Every December 24th millions of people are visited by a short, fat guy in a red suit. Where does he come from, why does he visit us and how does he accomplish this almost impossible task?
The figure of Santa Claus comes from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift-giver Saint Nicholas. His legend can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. As a saint he was given his own “feast day” that was celebrated on December 6th, a date traditionally considered a lucky for purchases or marriage.
Tradition says that Saint Nicholas and his aides arrive each year by steam boat from Spain carrying gifts, chocolate letters and nuts. Saint Nicholas is believed to ride a white-grey horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children.
Religious Protestant leaders worried that people were missing the true meaning of Christmas, focusing too much on Saint Nick. They replaced him with the angel baby Kristkindt (which became Kris Kringle), but mothers were concerned for a small naked child wardering on its own, so they reintroduced Saint Nicholas as his guide.
As Protestant criticized the Christmas feast and tried to cancel the holiday completely, stories and songs of protest surfaced about a jolly, plump old man called Father Christmas. He traditionally wore a fur lined green suit and brought cheer and presents to everyone around him.
As the reformation took a hold of much of Europe, however, the popularity of St. Nicholas dropped in most Protestant countries, with the exception of Holland where he was referred to as “Sinter Klaas”. After this tradition came to the United States, “Sinter Klaas” became “Santa Claus.”
Taking the best of all above, our modern Santa has been largely defined by “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore and the illustration of Thomas Nast (Harper’s Magazine) and Haddon Sundblom (Coca-Cola Company).
Santa Claus is currently a jolly, old, plump man who lives in the North Pole with Mrs. Claus overseeing elves who make presents all year long, in preparation for Christmas Eve. That night, he loads all the presents in his reindeer-drawn sleight and flies over the rooftops delivering presents to good girls and boys.
He leaves presents in shoes, stockings or under the Christmas tree, and leaves a lump of coal for bad boys and girls on his “naughty list”.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. (2014 by Aurea)