Written by: Georgia Miller
The Santa Claus that we all know and love today didn’t always exist. In fact, without a certain saint from what is now Turkey, we wouldn’t have Santa Claus at all.
Saint Nicholas is who we have to thank for our Santa Claus traditions. Saint Nicholas was a Bishop in fourth century Myra. He was rich and that was because of the fact that his mother and father died when he was very young and they left him a lot of money. In December of 1773 and 1774, a newspaper reported on many groups, mainly Dutch, that gathered to honor the anniversary of his death. The name Santa Claus actually came from his Dutch name Sinter Klaas, which was from his real name Saint Nicholas.
That’s not where the story ends. We haven’t figured out how he got his home, wife, chimney, or even his eight reindeer. In 1822, an American professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem for his three daughters called “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”, better known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Clement’s poem is mainly why we have the image of Santa that we have today. He described Santa as a “jolly old elf” with the ability to ascend a chimney with a nod of his head.
Moore’s poem helped popularize the image we have today of Santa who flies house to house on Christmas Eve in a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer. In 1881 Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, created the fat jolly man with a white beard who carries a sack full of toys for good children. The cartoon he made first appeared in Harper’s weekly. Thomas Nast was the man who gave Santa the bright red suit with white fur trim, the North Pole, Mrs. Claus, and his hardworking elves.
While we have our Santa traditions over here, did you think that it was the same everywhere around the world? Well, he isn’t. In Germany, Kris Kringle is believed to deliver presents to well behaved children, Swiss and German children anyways. One English legend tells us that Father Christmas will visit children on the eve of Christmas and fill stockings with treats for the holidays. A Russian tale says that “an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn’t find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven” (History.com). In Italy, there is a story about a lady named La Befana, a kindly witch who takes a broom stick down chimneys of homes so that she could deliver toys to stockings of “lucky”children.
Santa isn’t all that you thought, is he? He has a history and a story. He has a purpose that will hopefully last ‘til the stars turn cold.