Just who is Santa?
Everyone knows who Santa is. He’s a tubby, jolly, bearded man in red who sneaks into our houses every year to deliver presents and make our holidays special. He lives with his loving wife Mrs Claus and spends his time surrounded by Rudolph and his reindeer friends, checking his list to see whether your kids have been naughty or nice. But how much do you know about Santa’s origins? It turns out he hasn’t always had quite the same image that he does today.
This tale starts with Nicholas, a Greek Bishop in the 300s AD. A man known for his good deeds and generosity, one famous tale has Nick throwing coin purses through the windows of an impoverished house to help the three daughters who lived there. The story goes on to say that on one occasion, rather than flinging the cash through the window, he popped it down the chimney and into one of the girl’s stockings. Hence the tradition of stockings by the chimney! This kindly man was later made a saint by the Christian Church and, as is fitting for a man whose life contributed to the later idea of ‘Santa Claus’, was the patron saint of children.
To carry on following Santa Claus’ story we must now jump to the Netherlands. Here the name ‘Saint Nicholas’ was changed to ‘Sinterklaas’ (the Nick was somehow dropped from the whole equation!) whose feast was held in December. There are some wonderful connections between Sinterklaas and our modern Santa as he had a long, bushy beard, wore red and had a book to tell him which children were naughty and which were nice. There was also a tradition that involved Sinterklaas riding around on an impressive white horse for which children would leave food and water when they went to bed. Sinterklaas’ day steadily became the main occasion for gift giving sprouting a tradition which we continue on our Christmas Day.
So what next? This Dutch tradition was then carried to America in the 18th Century by Dutch settlers flocking to New York City. However it was American writer, Mr Clement Clarke Moore, who in his poem, The Night Before Christmas, crowned Santa Claus as the all-American king of Christmas that we know and love today. Coca-Cola also wanted a slice of the action, so decided to introduce a human-sized version of Santa Claus in a series of illustrations for Coca-Cola advertisements introduced in 1931, which made the red Santa suit the icon as it still stands to this day!
You'll be able to find the authentic Mr Claus by travelling to heart of True Lapland on one of Transun's Santa trips!