The Origins of Santa Claus!

Posted Dec 21 2017, 5:34 pm

 

Ah yes…the holiday season! I love this time o’ year! And whether y’all call this seasonal fellow Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, or St. Nick…we must first go alllll the way back to southwestern Turkey in the 4th century to find the roots of this most colorful character.

As the bishop of Myra, Listers, St. Nicholas was credited with doing a number of miracles. So much so, in fact, that when he died on December 6, 343, he left behind a legacy that would grow into a strong and beloved cult.

By the early 1500s, he was even given his own celebratory “feast day”.. But, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “…at about the same time Nicholas lived, Pope Julius I decided to establish a date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. As the actual time of year for this event was unknown, the Pope decided to assign the holiday to December 25th. There had long been a midwinter festival  and the Pope hoped to use the holiday to Christianize the celebrations.”

Sooooo, the ‘feast day’ slid from the 6th to the 25th & a tradition around the world began as St. Nicholas supposedly visited homes on Christmas Eve. Children would place nuts, apples, sweets and other items around the house to welcome him. And all celebrating went smoothly, ’til the Reformation [a Protestant movement which began in 1517 & lasted ’til the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648] took hold of Europe & St. Nicholas’ popularity dropped in most countries, except in Holland where the saint was called “Sinter Klaas.”

After the tradition came to New Amsterdam, U.S. via the Dutch [New Amsterdam would later be renamed “New York”], their “Sinter Klass” evolved to “Sancte Claus”. Then, in 1809, following the Revolutionary War, author Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame 😀 ) included the saint in a comic piece called “History of New York City” which caught the notice of the New York Historical Society, and in 1810, they hosted their first St. Nicholas Dinner. Member and artist, Alexander Anderson, was commissioned to draw an image of the good Saint for the festivity, & his image reflected a religious St. Nick, BUT…he was also clearly depositing gifts in children’s stockings which were hung by a fireplace.

NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
Cover of an 1883 edition of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ by Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863).

In 1823, author Clement Moore further expounded on this idea when he drafted a poem for his children which he called, A Visit from St. Nick [which has since became the now-famous poem, The Night Before Christmas], where the saint is depicted as a tiny man in colorful robes [blue & purple were the favored colors in the 1800s] atop a sleigh drawn by eight miniature reindeer [the Saami people of northern Scandinavia often used reindeer to pull their rigs as these animals were well adapted to cold climates with their heavy fur coats and broad, flat hooves for walking on snow] which fly him from house to house, where unseen he shimmies down the chimneys and shoves gifts into stockings hung by the fireplaces.

BUT, we must thank American artist Norman Rockwell for the red & white adornment of St. Nicholas in his painting, A Drum for Tommy, which appeared on the cover of The Country Gentleman in 1921. 

 

Then, THIS image was to become forevermore solidified in our hearts & minds when, in 1931, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company needed a seasonal ad to sell their product. They hired a painter named Hadden Sundblom who created the jolly ol’ Santa Claus we love best today.

So, there you go, my dearest readers, now you all know the real story of how Santa came to be… HO HO HOOOOOOOOO!!!!! <3 ~ Cindy / amazon.com/author/www.cindynord.com

 

 

 

 

 

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