If you are old enough to read this, then you probably know that Santa Claus doesn’t live at the North Pole, and he basically doesn’t exist – well, at least not anymore. One of the biggest legends of all time, Santa Claus’ story has been interpreted and restructured by cultures, countries, and artists alike. To the young and the young at heart, he is the rotund white-bearded father figure that eats your milk and cookies the stuffs your stockings with gifts. To others, (like the Futurama team) he is the ultimate punisher of the naughty (nice kids get spared); and to many, he is just a character that Coca-Cola used as a ploy to attain world domination. Whichever story you choose to believe, tis all wrong. If you don’t intend to lose what’s left of your childhood image of Santa, you can stop here. Otherwise, here is the true legend of Father Christmas:
The real story of Santa Claus begins with a man known as Saint Nicholas. Born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey, Nicholas was seen as very generous especially to children and impoverished people. He used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and many more. While he was still young, he was made Bishop of Myra and that even made him increase in his generosity. One of the greatest stories about his care was how he kept on rescuing ladies that were going to be sold to slavery or married off. There lived a father who had been initially rich and suddenly lost all his money. Having only his three daughters left, he decided to send the first daughter off to slavery or early marriage. When Saint Nicholas hears about this, he rushes to the family home a night before the trade was about to happen and puts more than enough money in the stockings of the first daughter.
With that money, the family was able to survive for a while and the daughter herself had the finances required to marry who she initially wanted to marry. After a while, the father got broke again and attempted the same for the second daughter. Saint Nicholas again intercepted in the same way. It wasn’t until the same happened for the third daughter that he was caught. He had ordinarily wanted to remain anonymous. His legend spread across Myra into other nations until his death on December 6. It is said that he was helped by a small orphan boy and after his death, a feast day is celebrated on the anniversary every year. December 6th still remains the main day for gift giving in many countries in Europe. In other countries, the day of gifts was moved in the course of the Reformation, as well as its opposition to the veneration of saints in many countries on the 24th and 25th of December.
As with how he became the Santa Claus we know of today, he came into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families gathered to honour the anniversary of his death. The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). It further went off the charts when in 1809, Washington Irving referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York.
This was pretty much where the imagery bias started. In his book, Santa is described as portly and smoking a pipe, rather than the lanky bishop that he probably was. In an 1822 poem titles “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” – more commonly called “Twas the Night Before Christmas” – by Clement Moore, Santa is further portrayed with a magic sleigh powered by reindeer, a sack full of toys, and a round stomach, “like a bowl full of jelly.” As to how Coca-Cola came in, the final image was provided by Coke’s ad illustrator Haddon Sundblom, whose 1930s red-suited Santa, complete with white-fur trim and leather boots, became the icon we know today.
Well, there you have it. I suppose there is still some form of solace that comes from knowing that this timeless legend is based on an actual person – unlike the tooth fairy (or is there a story here too?) All in all, the image is forever warm in our hearts. Santa signifies love, selflessness, and giving, and at the end of the day, those are the very things that count.
From Lawrettawrites to y’all, Merry Christmas!!!! 🙂