Whether young or old, there cannot be many folks who do not love the jolly old man, dressed in red with his big belly and snowy white beard. The Christmas season will find him at the mall, private parties, decorating a lawn or landing on a roof, but do you know the origin of Santa Claus?
The original Santa Claus was St. Nicholas who is the patron saint of sailors, Sicily, Greece and Russia, and of course children. St. Nicholas was born in Turkey in the fourth century and became widely known for his generosity and devoting his life to Christianity. The Romans imprisoned and tortured him for his beliefs. When Constantine became emperor of Rome, he released Nicholas. St. Nicholas went on giving presents to the poor and especially to the children, explaining Christmas to children as he passed them out.
His name is derived from Sinter Klaas, which is the Dutch name for the mythical saint. Santa Claus is part of the Christmas tradition throughout the English-speaking world, as well as Japan and Latin America.
He also has a variety of aliases such as –
- Father Christmas
- Saint Nick
- Kris Kringle
- Saint Nicholas
- Papa Noel
- Noel Father
Clement C. Moore is given credit for creating Santa Claus, as we know him today. When his famous poem “The Night before Christmas” was published, it gave a vivid image of what the famous man looked like and became the modern Santa Claus as the jolly fat man with a white beard and red suit.
Most parents that celebrate Christmas actively try to convince their children of Santa’s existence. They are usually successful until an older sibling or friend whispers the horrifying words, “There is no Santa Claus.” Parents at least try to keep the source of their presents a secret and give Santa Claus the credit for bringing the gifts.
Father Christmas originated in Britain and remains the British name for Santa Claus. He was pictured as a well-fed man in a long green, fur-lined robe. He was known to typify the spirit of cheer at Christmas and was represented as “The Spirit of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens.
It is an American tradition for children to leave Santa Claus milk and cookies on his yearly visit and of course, a carrot for Santa’s reindeer. He is known to fit down any chimney and if there is not a fireplace in the home, he will create one especially for Christmas Eve. He leaves the same way he came after leaving gifts under the tree and filling all the stockings left by hopeful children.
Many Christian churches discourage the focus on Santa Claus as they feel it takes away from the real focus of the holiday, which is the birth of Jesus. No one knows the actual birth date of Jesus but a clerical decision was made to keep a religious focus into some of the more carnal festivities that people were indulging in during the Yule festivals that originated in by the Romans and Germans.
The myth of Santa Claus is not only perpetuated by parents, but also by the media, malls, and even the post office. Canada has a special zip code for letters to Santa. It is HOH OHO. Many letters and requests are received by the post office every year. Postal workers or volunteers sometimes answer letters. There are special websites that children can send e-mails to Santa requesting gifts and telling him how good they have been the previous year.
One of the more popular Santa Claus comes to town in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He rides in the last float and then takes up residency in a large portion of one floor. You can find Santa everywhere during the Holidays but Macy’s Santa was made famous in several movies.
Legend has Santa Claus living at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus and the elves. The elves are the production workers that work year-round to make all the toys requested by the millions of children throughout the world. At first, all toys were handmade individually by each elf, but in the modern world, it has been mechanized and toys are created assembly line style.
In whatever form you picture Santa Claus, he is an integral part of the Christmas tradition. He will remain a part as long as the myth of Santa Clause is repeated to each generation.