History of Santa Claus
The Santa Claus we all know and love — that big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard — didn’t always look that way. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop’s robe and a Norse huntsman’s animal skin. In fact, when Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elflike figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.
Who is Santa?
From the Norse God Odin, pictured often with a long beard and an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir (possibly the inspiration for the reindeer – there were eight before Rudolph came along), to the Greek Christian Bishop Saint Nicholas who made his name by giving gifts to the poor.
While the red-suited version of Santa has been around for a while amongst a number of difference versions, it has become the norm thanks to the vast commercialization of Christmas in the last century.
Where did the flying reindeer come from?
Magic mushrooms are to blame, according to Siberian and Arctic legends, where reindeer live. Here Santa originates from shamans, people who were believed to have access to the spirit world, who dropped into locals’ houses with bags of magic mushrooms.
They would even come down the chimney according to anthropologist John Rush.
‘Santa is a modern counterpart of a shaman, who consumed mind-altering plants and fungi to commune with the spirit world,’ he told Live Science.
‘Because snow is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story.’
So Santa’s ‘trip’ with flying reindeer…might have more literal origins than you thought.
History of Santa Claus
- St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in a place called Myra in Asia Minor .He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it.
- The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to get presents in first started! It goes like this:
- There was a poor man who had three daughters. He was so poor, he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn’t get married. A dowry is a sum of money paid to the bridegroom by the bride’s parents on the wedding day. This still happens in some countries, even today. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married. The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.
- Because of his kindness, Nicholas was made a Saint. St. Nicholas is not only the saint of children but also of sailors! One story tells of him helping some sailors that were caught in a dreadful storm off the coast of Turkey. The storm was raging around them and all the men were terrified that their ship would sink beneath the giant waves. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly, he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to be calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.
- St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian. No one really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.x`x`
- in 1066, before he set sail to England, William the Conqueror prayed to St. Nicholas asking that his conquest would go well.
Origin Of Santa Claus
The American image of Santa Claus was further elaborated by illustrator Thomas Nast, who depicted a rotund Santa for Christmas issues of Harper’s magazine from the 1860s to the 1880s. Nast added such details as Santa’s workshop at the North Pole and Santa’s list of the good and bad children of the world. A human-sized version of Santa Claus, rather than the elf of Moore’s poem, was depicted in a series of illustrations for Coca-Cola advertisements introduced in 1931 that introduced and made the red Santa Suits an icon. In modern versions of the Santa Claus legend, only his toyshop workers are elves. Rudolph, the ninth reindeer, with a red and shiny nose, was invented in 1939 by an advertising writer for the Montgomery Ward Company.
In looking for the historical roots of Santa Claus, one must go very deep in the past. One discovers that Santa Claus as we know him is a combination of many different legends and mythical creatures.
The basis for the Christian-era Santa Claus is Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna in what is now Turkey. Nicholas lived in the 4th century A.D. He was very rich, generous, and loving toward children. Often he gave joy to poor children by throwing gifts in through their windows.
The Orthodox Church later raised St. Nicholas, miracle worker, to a position of great esteem. It was in his honor that Russia’s oldest church, for example, was built. For its part, the Roman Catholic Church honored Nicholas as one who helped children and the poor. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of children and seafarers. His name day is December 6th.
PictureIn the Protestant areas of central and northern Germany, St. Nicholas later became known as der Weinachtsmann. In England, he came to be called Father Christmas. St. Nicholas made his way to the United States with Dutch immigrants, and began to be referred to as Santa Claus.
In North American poetry and illustrations, Santa Claus, in his white beard, red jacket, and pompom-topped cap, would sally forth on the night before Christmas in his sleigh, pulled by eight reindeer, and climb down chimneys to leave his Christmas gifts in stockings children set out on the fireplace’s mantelpiece.
Children naturally wanted to know where Santa Claus actually came from. Where did he live when he wasn’t delivering presents? Those questions gave rise to the legend that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole, where his Christmas-gift workshop was also located.
In 1925, since grazing reindeer would not be possible at the North Pole, newspapers revealed that Santa Claus, in fact, lived in Finnish Lapland. “Uncle Markus”, Markus Rautio, who compared the popular “Children’s hour” on Finnish public radio, revealed the great secret for the first time in 1927: Santa Claus lives on Lapland’s Korvatunturi – “Ear Fell”
The fell, which is situated directly on Finland’s eastern frontier, somewhat resembles a hare’s ears – which are in fact Santa Claus’s ears, with which he listens to hear if the world’s children are being nice. Santa has the assistance of a busy group of elves, who have quite their own history in Scandinavian legend.
Picture: Ear FellOver the centuries, customs from different parts of the Northern Hemisphere thus came together and created the whole world’s Santa Claus – the ageless, timeless, deathless white-bearded and red-suited man who gives out gifts on Christmas and always returns to Korvatunturi in Finnish Lapland.
Facts about Santa Claus
- Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man—sometimes with spectacles—wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children.
- Images of him rarely have a beard with no mustache.
- This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast.
- This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, children’s books, and films.
- Since the 20th century, in an idea popularized by the 1934 song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, Santa Claus has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the well-behaved children in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve.
- In the United States and Canada, his name is Santa Claus.
- In China, he is called Shengdan Laoren.
- In England, his name is Father Christmas, where he has a longer coat and a longer beard.
- In Germany, children get presents from Christine, the Christ Child.
- Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy, or simply Santa is a figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins who, in many Western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on 24 December, the night before Christmas Day.
- In France, he’s known as Pere Noel.
- The modern figure of Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, whose name is a dialectal pronunciation of Saint Nicholas, the historical Greek bishop, and gift giver of Myra.
- During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.
- He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the flying reindeer who pull his sleigh. He is commonly portrayed as living at the North Pole and saying “ho ho ho” often.
- The tradition of Santa Claus entering dwellings through the chimney is shared by many European seasonal gift-givers. In pre-Christian Norse tradition, Odin would often enter through chimneys and fire holes on the solstice.
- Ho ho ho is the way that many languages write out how Santa Claus laughs. Ho ho ho represents an attempt to write the deep belly-laugh of Santa Claus, as opposed to the conventional, higher-pitched ha ha that represents the laughter of less obese characters, or the snickering, cynical Bwa ha ha! associated with the villains of melodrama.