The Legend of Santa Claus
According to legend, Santa Clause was actually a bishop named Saint Nicolas in what is now Turkey. He was reputed to be a kind and generous
man who performed miracles for young children, the poor and sailors. One
story holds that on two occasions he threw bags of gold through a window for
three poor girls who would otherwise have been unable to marry becuase their family had no dowry to offer. On the third
night, when St. Nicolas went to deliver a bag of gold, the window was closed
so he threw the gold down the chimney and it landed in the girls' stockings
which were hung on the fireplace to dry. This story made St. Nicolas famous
for being a gift-bringer and began the tradition of hanging Christmas
stockings by the fireplace.
Throughout the Middle Ages the popularity of
Saint Nicolas spread throughout Europe and he became the patron Saint of
Russia and Greece as well as for sailors, charitable organizations, children
and unmarried girls. After the Reformation, devotion to St. Nicolas’
disappeared in all of Europe except in Holland where he was known as
"Sinterklaas." When Dutch colonists immigrated to New York in the 17th
Century they brought with them the legends of Sinterklaas, which were
adopted by English speakers and became "Santa Claus."
The popular view of Santa in America today is of an image that began to
evolve in 1822 with the poem "Night Before Christmas."
The concepts of Santa reading letters, checking his list, having his
workshop, etc. came about through the pictures of cartoonist Thomas Nast which where
published from 1863 to 1886 in the popular Harper’s Weekly Magazine.
Coca-Cola perpetuated the image of the rotund, white-bearded, jolly, old man
in a red and white suit through their ads in the mid-1900s. And finally, in
1939, the department store of Montgomery Ward added the story of Rudolf to
Christmas by giving away copies of their book "Rudolf the Red Nose
Reindeer," which was written by their advertising department.
Today, through commercialization, most children around the world know of
Santa Claus and in many countries a variation of the Santa Claus figure and
the holiday season represent a time of gift giving. For example, in Germany,
children get gifts on Christmas from "Christindl," the Christ Child. In Holland, Sinterklaas rides a white horse
and leaves gifts in wooden shoes; in Sweden, "Jultomen" arrives Christmas
Eve with a bag of presents. Some children in Spain, in addition to gifts from the Three Kings in January,
also receive gifts on December 24th from "Papa Noel."
We would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy