Myths and Legends

Saint Nicholas and the History of Santa Claus

20121213-0672-Holiday Express CTA ride by ocean yamaha, on Flickr
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Who is Santa Claus

Santa Claus is a figure of celebration for many cultures and in America he’s mostly known as a large man with white hair and beard, and he wears a big fluffy red suit. His outfit is decked out with large black boots and a wide black belt with a big square buckle. Of course his outfit would not be complete without a furry red hat finished off with a white fluffy ball on the end.


He is said to ride through the night on Christmas Eve driving his magical sleigh that is pulled by 9 amazing reindeer. As he flies through the night he makes stops to all the boys and girls on the planet and delivers presents to everyone. Of course it is well known that throughout the year he keeps a running list of every boy and girl and keeps track of who has been naughty and who has been nice. So it’s important for all the children to be good throughout the year in order to receive a visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.


He is supposed to magically pop down your chimney or teleport into your home in order to deliver the gifts and does this in the blink of an eye all the while going unnoticed.


What a wonderfully exciting picture this paints in the minds of children, Christmas is such a wonderful time of year full of many great stories, family, friends and great meals. But where and when exactly did Santa Claus originate? Well, we’re going to go over some of the fascinating history associated with Santa Claus and the legend of Old St. Nicholas.


The Legendary Saint Nicholas

Most anyone alive today has grown up with the Joy of Santa Claus, but have you ever thought of when it all started? Actually Santa Claus is said to of been born way back when, sometime during the fourth century, or around 280 A.D. His real name was Saint Nicholas, and he was a Bishop in the Church in Myra Turkey. This is actually present day Demre, Turkey. Saint Nicholas was known widely as being a very caring and kind individual that loved to help people. It’s said much of his wealth he gave away to the unfortunate.


There are stories of him doing many wonderful anonymous acts of kindness over the span of his life. He soon became known as the protector of children and his popularity soared up until his death on Dec. 6th. The exact year is unknown but it’s said to be somewhere between 325 and 340 A.D. Since his death, Dec. 6th has become known as a great day of feast and prosperity, it’s supposed to be the best day to shop for those big purchases and even a great day to get married. Although Dec. 6th was established as the day of celebration due to the Bishop’s death, the Pope decided to assign the holiday to December 25th in celebration of the birth of Jesus.


Santa Claus Comes to America

So we’ve covered briefly the history of who the real Santa Claus was, so when did he come to America as a tradition. Well it wasn’t until the 18th century around 1775 that the stories of Saint Nicholas reached the shores of the Americas. News traveled quite slow in those days! None the less, it wasn’t until a paper in New York reported a Dutch celebration of his death that he began to surface. So he soon became known as Santa Claus, I suppose it was an American translation of his nickname Sinter Klaas.


There were some art woodcuts of Santa Claus that were produced by a member of the New York Historical Society that portrayed Santa with a bunch of stockings hanging on a fireplace that were overflowing with wonderful toys and gifts. Of course at this time he was still featured in his Bishop’s robes, but the tradition was fast coming alive. In 1874 he was portrayed in a brown suit with fur trim on  it, this was a depiction created by a cartoonist. The 19th century also brought about tales of Santa living at the North Pole and having a huge workshop to build toys for all the children. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that Santa’s outfit became the wonderful red suit with white fur trim that we all know and love today.


We’ve all heard of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” right? Well this poem is widely responsible for all the magical inspirations that we know today such as Santa coming down the chimney. It was also the inspiration for the stories of Santa’s miniature sleigh that’s pulled by 8 magical reindeer. But of course we can’t forget Rudolph, he became the 9th reindeer after the song, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written.


The America’s wasn’t the only place that tales of this wonderful gift giver were surfacing. The Germans have their Kris Kringle, Scandinavia has Jultomten, the English have Father Christmas and Pere Noel is the Santa Claus of France. In Russia they actually have a woman Santa, her name is Babouschka. The legend on her is that she gave the three wise men the wrong directions of where Jesus was on purpose so they wouldn’t find him. She later felt bad about what she’d done but couldn’t make it up to the men. So she leaves gifts for all the children in hopes that one of them is Jesus, and she will be forgiven. Now here’s an ironic twist, the Italians also have a woman gift giver, but she is a witch. It’s said that she flies her broom down their chimneys and fills their stockings with gifts. What a twist to this story!

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Santa Claus since Christmas is right around the corner. For all you children out there that may be reading this, we may never truly know what the actual Santa Claus looks like. But I believe he can be anything that we imagine in our hearts, so be sure you are behaving and be sure to go to bed early. Because when you awaken, Santa will have paid your home a visit! Merry Christmas Everyone!

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13 thoughts on “Saint Nicholas and the History of Santa Claus
  1. This blog is very refreshing, I really appreciate your articles. Your latest article about our beloved Saint Nick is very educational. I didn’t know most of the things you have mentioned here… Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus, very interesting. 🙂

    1. Thank You so much for the kind words Lasantha. It really means a lot to know that I’m providing some interesting subjects for my readers. I really enjoy the research and love to hear your feedback. Christmas is right around the corner so I thought this one was appropriate 🙂

  2. Great article. I’ve started to follow your blog a month ago or so, a
    nd from that time i’m reading every post. I have to things to say:
    1. Thank you
    2. Keep up the good work

    1. Thank You very much Igor…It means a lot to me to know that my readers are enjoying the topics. I get more passionate about it every day, so keep visiting, I’ll try not to let you down!

  3. Great article, my kids are old enough to start asking questions about where santa comes from and what does he do the rest of the year, so I can now give a bit of back story which includes elements of truth/legend, (so far as imaginary characters go).

    1. That’s great! I think Santa Claus is an important part of childhood. I commend you for being a parent that helps to keep the dream alive and letting your children believe in the spirit of Christmas, it’s so much fun!

  4. Hi,
    thanks for this article. I like to read about different Christmas traditions and stories in the diffrent countrys… never heard about the italian witch. Interesting story!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Christmas is such a magical time of year, I just love it. It is very interesting to see how other cultures compare to your own as far as traditions go. The witch is quite a bit different though 🙂

  5. The true story of Saint Nick begins with St. Nicholas, UN agency was born throughout the third century within the village of Patara. At the time the world was Greek and is currently on the southern coast of Turkey. His loaded folks, UN agency raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an outbreak whereas St. Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and provides the money to theindigent, St. Nicholas used his full patrimony to help the poverty-stricken, the sick, and also the prick. He devoted his life to share God and was created Bishop of Myra whereas still a young man. Bishop St. Nicholas became legendary throughout the land for his generosity to those in want, his love for kids, and his concern for sailors and ships.

    1. Excellent information on the early days of the real St. Nicholas. Thanks so much for sharing this, adds much value to the discussion.

  6. Nice people sometimes think Santa Claus on Christmas gifts you bring to us when my dad. Come over here, but you keep the gift

  7. Hi Robert Tuttle , I really love this post. Love the way you write your posts. The information in this article is really unique and useful for me. After reading this article, I think I have some ideas for myself. I do follow your articles recently. Thanks for sharing this post. Hope to read more interesting information from you. Have a nice day.

    1. Thank you for the kind words Tetsu, that’s great you’re enjoying the blog, I have a great time writing about all the unusual subjects!

      Hope your day is great too!

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