Who is Santa Clause?
Origins of today’s Santa Clause
The Christmas season is usually the time when we reflect on the past year, bring our stuff that has been undealt with for a long time in order, evaluate our past decisions and generally is a time of introspection. As part of this yearly ritual, I was cleaning out piles of papers that have accumulated in drawers and cupboards. Most of it I discarded without taking a second look but one old half-torn piece of paper from my English class caught my eye before I threw it out because it tries to answer the age-old question “Who is Santa Clause and where does he come from?”. It doesn’t cite any sources for its assertions about Santa but most of it I could corroborate with the help of other sources to which I have linked out within my summary.
For copyright reasons, I will only post my summary here and when I find the original text floating around somewhere on the web I will add a link to the source.
Who is Santa Clause? – Santa Uncovered:
- Nicholas was a real historical figure who lived in Myra (now in Turkey) and was raised by wealthy Christian parents
- Inspired by Jesus, he likewise did good deeds after he became bishop using his inherited wealth
- Best known good deed:
When a poor father didn’t have the money to pay the marriage dowries for his 3 daughters he visited the first and later the second daughter at night and threw each a bag of coins through their open windows. But when he came to throw the money through the third daughter’s window he found it closed and he thus dropped the bag with money in it down the chimney where at the bottom the girl hung her stockings and the coins landed in them. From this legend we get the tradition of hanging up socks so Santa Clause can fill them with treats.
- Italian sailors who docked regularly at Myra (Wiki de) spread the news about his good deeds and giving in secret spread throughout the Western World.
- The transition from St. Nicholas to Father Christmas first occurred in Germany.
- The Feast day of Saint Nicholas was December 6th, but after the Reformation, German Protestants celebrated the Christkindl (Christ Child) on his feast day December 25th. The Christkindl was so deeply respected that nobody wanted to give it up and Saint Nicholas, as well as the Christkindl, were celebrated on the 25th.
- From Germany, the custom travelled to Holland where he became Sinter Klaus, dressed as a bishop, rode a white horse and gave treats to all good Dutch children. From Holland, the story spread to North America when the Dutch settled in New Amsterdam which is now New York.
- In the English language, the Dutch name Sinter Klaus changed to ‘Santa Claus’. Also, a bigger variety of treats and presents were added to the gift giving part. The horse was replaced with reindeers by the Americans.
- More changes were added after Dr. Moore wrote the poem ‘The night before Christmas’
- Santa Clause’s portrayal varied widely until the American printer Louis Prang issued a Christmas Card in 1885 depicting red-suited (slightly chubby) Santa replacing the other images of Santa.
- In the 1920s Coca-Cola (Source in German: coca-cola-deutschland.de) featured a full-sized Santa drinking a Coke in their ads wearing red and white, the brand colours of Coca-Cola. The reason behind it was that he was working from their headquarters in Atlanta, not the North Pole. The company thus made Santa ubiquitous during the Christmas season.
- So who is Santa Clause?: Today’s figure of Santa Clause has had many influences from various cultures and undergone many developments over a long course of time reaching back more than a millennium. Contrary to common belief it wasn’t Coca-Cola who invent him (See: https://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/santa/cocacola.asp ) but they helped to establish Santa as a ubiquitous Christmas character who is loved by millions around the world.