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History of Santa Claus

History of Santa Claus

Christmas is just around the corner. I thought it would be really cool to write an article about the history of Santa Claus and how he actually came about here in the United States and around the world. The history of Santa is very fascinating.

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The Real Santa Claus

The history of Santa Claus dates back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. The belief is that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Myra (modern day Turkey). Legend has it that Nicholas gave away all of his wealth and traveled to help the poor and sick. Nicholas’s popularity grew and he became know as the protector of children. His death was on December 6, to the Renaissance this was considered a lucky day to make a big purchase or get married.

Santa Claus Comes To New York

St. Nicholas made his way to American culture at the end of 18th century. December 1773 and 1774, New York papers reported that Dutch families gathered to celebrate the anniversary of St. Nicholas death. How St. Nicholas got his name Santa Claus, comes from the Dutch nickname Sinter Klaas. In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, made and gave woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background was engraved with today familiar Santa images. The image had stockings filled with toys hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped make Sinter Klaas stories even more popular. He referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book “The History of New York“.

history of santa claus
John Pintard Woodcut Image made in 1804

Santa Claus in Shopping Malls

Giving gifts have been a big part of Christmas since the holiday rejuvenated in the early 19th century. Advertisements for Christmas shopping began in 1820. The 1840’s, newspapers started making separate sections for holiday shopping. Most images were of the now new popular Santa Claus. 1841 in Philadelphia, thousand of children gathered to see a life sized Santa Claus. Stores then started bringing real life Santa Claus look a like into there stores in the hopes parents would bring there children. The early 1890’s, the Salvation Army needed money to help provide needy family’s with Christmas meals. The Salvation Army decided to hire unemployed men and dress them up as Santa Claus ringing a bell all over the streets of New York to get donations. That is how today bell ringing volunteers across America came about for the Christmas season. The most popular department Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, appeared in 1947. Kris Kringle (today Santa Claus), was made popular by the movie Miracle on 34th Street.

The Night Before Christmas Poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Today’s poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, was actually written in 1822 by an Episcopal minister, Clement Clarke Moore. Moore wrote the poem for his three daughters and was actually originally called “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. This poem Moore wrote is a big part in the modern day Santa Claus. Moore poem helped make the modern day version of Santa flying in a sleigh, with eight reindeer and going down chimneys giving presents to good children, a popular and American Icon. Thomas Nast, in 1881, drew a cartoon character of Santa Claus that looks like the modern day Santa Claus. Nast cartoon gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves and his wife Mrs. Claus.

history of santa claus
Thomas Nast 1881 Cartoon

Other Country Traditions

Santa Claus is known all around the world. But, in other countries Santa does go by different names with other country traditions. Swiss and German children believe Christkind or Kris Kringle deliver presents to all the good children. Christkind, means Christ Child. Christkind is angel figure that goes with St. Nicholas on the holiday journey. Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten is believed to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. English legend says that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children’s stockings with holiday treats. Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem, purposely, so that they couldn’t find Jesus. Later on Babouschka felt very guilty on what she had done. She could not find the men to undo the damage she had caused. On January 5, even as of today, 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. Italy has a similar tradition, it is believed a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch, rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.

This is the history of Santa Claus. It is really very interesting how traditions here in the United States started and what other countries traditions are.

history of santa claus

Thoughts By Fiddler #thoughtsbyfiddler


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