History of Santa Claus
The Christmas-y spirit is never complete without the jingling bells of the Santa Claus.
I still remember hanging my petite little sock by the windowsill. Simply in the hope that Santa Claus would come around and leave an adorable gift for me.
I would barely sleep on the night of Christmas Eve.
And yet I couldn’t get out to check whether Santa had already arrived, in the fear that I would probably spook him away.
But Just How Much Do You Know About The Legend of Santa Claus?
The story of Santa Claus has taken a different route over the years on different lands.
It starts with the altruism of a man called Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was a bishop who lived in Smyrna (Izmir) of Asia Minor, or the present day Turkey. He was blessed with a lot of riches, as his parents passed away when he was young leaving behind their wealth.
This Saint tried to help whomsoever he could discreetly. He would leave some money at the doorstep or throw gifts for kids through the window.
Once St Nicholas came to know of a man who was very poor and had three daughters.
He was in despair as he couldn’t get his daughters married, since he didn’t have any money for their dowry. So, in the darkness of the night he ventured out and threw a bag of gold coins through the fire chimney and into the house.
The bag fell into a stocking that had been left by the fire to dry.
And this is how leaving the socks for Santa to drop the gifts in it started.
The Man used the money to get his daughter married. But to his surprise the same thing happened again so he could get his second daughter married. Now the poor man was puzzled as to who was doing it, and why!
So he decided to hide by the chimney one night to see who was throwing the gold bags in.
To his surprise, it was Saint Nicholas. However, Saint Nicholas pleaded him not to tell anyone about his secret.
But eventually, the word spread and anytime someone got a secret gift, they believed it to be from Saint Nicholas.
Santa Claus as we know him today is a combination of many legends as well as mythical characters.
In the 16th century, during the Protestant Reformation, the legend of Saint Nicholas phased out. The reformers were not big fans of the Saints.
However, he survived in the hearts of the Europeans commoners.
They continued to keep clogs or shoes at the windowsill to receive gifts from the Saint.
He was remembered as ‘Father Christmas’ or ‘Old Man Christmas’ in England and in France is he was known as ‘Pere Noel’.
In The USA, he was popular as ‘Kris Kringle’ and in 17th Century the Dutch took inspiration from the American version. The inhabitants of the New Amsterdam (now known as New York) got their very own Sinter Klaas.
Somehow eventually Sinter Klaas turned into Santa Claus.
A lot of poets, writers and artists found inspiration from the legend and created their own imaginary versions of Santa Claus.
The first mention was seen in the works of author Washington Irving in 1809.
In his ‘History of New York’, he published a story under the pseudonym ‘Knickerbocker’, where he mentioned of the arrival of a saint on a horseback on St. Nicholas Eve.
In 1823, Dr Clement Clark Moore published a poem called ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’ or ’T’was the Night before Christmas’ where he mentioned about Santa Claus and his 9 reindeers.
In Moore’s version, apparently Santa resembled an elf.
One of the reindeers (Rudolph), became quite popular later because of his red nose.
The roly-poly human-like image was elaborated by Thomas Nast in his write up for Harpers’ Magazine.
Nast was the one to mention that Santa lived in the North Pole and that he had a workshop for making toys. And also that he had a list of the good and the bad kids.
In 1931, Coca Cola was inspired by Nast’s version of Santa Claus for its advertisement. So that is when the trademark look of the red robe, big belly, buckled belt and white beard was created.
No one really knows when Saint Nicholas passed away, but it is assumed that it was on 6th of December of either 345 or 352. That is when ‘Saint Nicholas Day’ is celebrated all across America.