The History of Santa Claus

Many people choose to celebrate the Christmas holiday, but most may not know the history behind how its beloved icon, Santa Claus, came to be!

According to Wikipedia, “Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and simply “Santa”, is a mythical figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins who, in many Western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on December 24, the night before Christmas. However, in some European countries children receive their presents on St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6.”

Wikipedia goes on to add, “The modern figure of Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which, in turn, has part of its basis in hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift-giver Saint Nicholas. During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. Over time, traits of this character and the British folklore character Father Christmas merged to form the modern Santa Claus known today.”

While this explains the origin of Santa Claus, the physical image of the “modern day” Santa Claus was conjured up in the 1800’s.  Many believe that it was wholly due to a poem written in 1823 entitled, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, which is now also referred to as “The Night Before Christmas” poem.

The poem describes Santa as being dressed all in fur, clothes tarnished with ashes and soot and a bundle of toys flung over his back.  It describes his eyes as twinkling, his dimples merry, cheeks like roses and a nose red as a cherry.  It also describes Santa (or Saint Nick) as having a white beard, a broad face and a round belly.

Contrary to todays modern portrayal, the poem also described Santa as smoking a pipe.

Regardless of if you choose to celebrate the Christmas holiday or not, have a safe and happy season!