The myth of Santa Claus: How, When and Why

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Santa Claus is a very popular figure among kids. He is known as this jolly fellow with a rotund belly and a tingling bell in his hand. He is said to travel on a sleigh with a huge bag full of gifts. On every Christmas eve, he is said to deliver gifts to children who are well behaved. Although he is a mythical character, his origin is said to based on a number of folk tales. Let us explore these stories in this article. We will dig deep into the history associated with Santa.

Santa Claus

The legend of Santa Claus dates back to the 3rd century

Santa Claus is said to have originated from a saint named Nicholas. According to folklore, St. Nicholas was an extremely generous man. He spent his inherited wealth to help the poor and the needy. He was very popular among the destitute because of his generosity. Nicholas particularly is said to have saved three sisters from the hand of prostitution, hence garnering admiration. After the Protestant reformation, the tides were against Saints and Monks. Yet, Nicholas continued to rule the hearts of the poor and downtrodden. His Death Day, 6th December was celebrated with a feast. It was so believed that this month was a good time for marriages and charity.

Origin of the name Santa Claus

St. Nicholas’s Dutch nickname was ‘Sinter Klaas’. This in turn was short for ‘Sint Nikolaas’. The term Santa Claus is said to have originated from here. Different stories can be attributed to the image of Santa Claus that is popular today. In 1804, a member of New York Historical society distributed some wooden cutouts of St. Nicholas. These cutouts had the tell-tale stockings filled with sweets and candy. In his book The History of New York, Washington Irving classified St Nicholas as the patron saint of New York. With time, the image of Sinter Klaas became even more popular. Various different descriptions used to be attributed to him including a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings.

How modern-day Santa Claus became solidified as a mythical character

In 1822, a minister wrote a long Christmas poem for all his three daughters. This poem was actually instrumental in bringing to life the image of Santa Claus. We know him as a ‘jolly old elf’ with a portly figure. He travels on a sleigh and climbs down chimneys to deliver sweets to children. He travels in his mini-sleigh pulled by his red-nosed reindeer. All of this was depicted in the poem. It is because of this poem that St. Nicholas became a popular American icon. This was furthered by cartoonist Thomas Nast who drew a picture of Santa as described in the poem. This cartoon showed an old man with a white beard and round belly holding a sack full of toys and gifts. Santa’s signature red hat trimmed with fur was actually given by the cartoonist.

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