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History Behind Santa Claus

Everybody in the world must have heard at least once about a jolly old fellow named Santa Claus. You know, that guy that supposedly flies all over the world on December 25th handing out gifts to every kid that was good throughout the years, and if you were mean then a box of coal for you. We all know this character, but very few of us know of its origins, and for that matter, who the heck came up with this idea in the first place? Parents and young adults know that this Santa Claus guy isn’t real, but we like to believe that he is, mainly to keep our children busy and happy, knowing that there’s somebody out in the north pole thinking about giving them some presents. It turns out that Santa Claus might be more real than you might think, has his own day to celebrate, and no, it’s not December 25th!

We have to go back hundreds of years back, around the year 280 in what would now modern day Turkey. It is believed that a monk with the name of Saint Nicholas was very loved among many people due to his kindness and generosity. Story says that St. Nicholas gave away all his money and inheritance to the poor and sick, and traveled around the country helping the needy. His most popular story is the one where Nicholas saves three girls from being sold to slavery and prostitution. Obviously, many people spread the word of this kind and friendly figure, spread across sailors, merchants, and of course children. People began celebrating his death on December 6th, and was considered a lucky day, to which many people chose to be married or invest in some expensive merchandise. By the Renaissance era (around the 14th century) Saint Nicholas was the most popular figure across Europe, even after the Reformation, when many saints began to lose their fame, Nicholas maintained that positive reputation.

The name of St. Nicholas was first introduced in the United States around the end of the 18th century, when New Yorkers heard from Dutch families honoring the anniversary of his death. The name Santa Claus originated from the Dutch nickname of Sinter Klaas, which came from the Dutch name Sint Nikolaas. In the beginning of the 19th century, John Pintard, member of New York Historical Society, distributed paintings of very familiar images that we all relate to Santa Claus: stockings filled with presents over a fireplace. Washington Irving then began to popularize Sinter Klaas stories along, and described him somewhat different from what we know him as: a “rascal,” three tipped hat, and yellow stockings.

Eventually, Santa Claus made it to shopping malls in the early 19th century, where catalogs would display the newly-popular Santa Claus figure. In Philadelphia, there was a shop that displayed a live-sized Santa Claus statue, and it was only a matter of time before children would beg their parents to take them to see the jolly fellow. In the late 19th century, the Salvation Army needed money to buy Christmas meals for needy families, so they began dressing up unemployed people to dress up as Santa Claus and go around soliciting donations, and have been doing it ever since.

Some of you have heard “Nightmare on Elm Street,” now get ready for “Miracle on 34 Street,” a movie from 1947 about an apartment store Santa Claus who convinces a little girl he is the real Santa Claus. Ever since then, Santa Clauses have been invading shopping malls everywhere in the United States, beginning with Macy’s in New York. Children have been lining up to sit in the old fellow’s lap to ask for presents for the past century.

In 1822, Clement Clark Moore wrote a poem named “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” which is more commonly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” in it described Santa Claus which we are more familiar with, and a supernatural ability to climb down a chimney with ease. From there, various other images arose, including his tiny sled and nine reindeer flying in the sky.

So there you have it, the history of Santa Claus and how we all came to know him. Nowadays, we believe that this man is nothing more than a figment of our imagination; we made him up, like the boogie man, mother goose, or the Easter bunny. But no doubt that this Santa Claus figure was based on a real, generous man, so it’s always nice to think that even though he isn’t real, he represents goodness in life.


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