Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas Kringle has a long history in Christmas traditions, and many people believe that he is a cheerful man in a red outfit who brings games to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve.
But his story goes back to the third century AD when Saint Nicholas walked the earth and became the patron saint of children.
So in this article, we will discover more about the history of Santa Claus from its early beginnings in the third century AD to the twenty-first century in shopping centers, and we will discover how two New Yorkers Clement Clark Moore and Thomas Nast were among the main influencing factors on Santa Claus story.
Legend of Saint Nicholas
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named Saint Nicholas, and it is believed that Nicholas was born around 280 AD in Patara near Myra in modern Turkey.
Saint Nicholas became the subject of many myths, as it is said that he gave up all his wealth and traveled to the countryside to help the poor and sick, and one of the most famous stories of Saint Nicholas is the story in which he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery and prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that he could marry.
Over many years, Nicholas’ popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors, and his feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death on December 6 every year, and this was traditional and a day for making big purchases or getting married.
By the Renaissance, Saint Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe, even after the Protestant Reformation when the veneration of saints began to be frustrated, as Saint Nicholas maintained his positive reputation, especially in the Netherlands.
Santa Claus in New York City
Saint Nicholas made his first steps into American popular culture at the end of the eighteenth century. In December 1773, the New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to celebrate the anniversary of his death.
The name Santa Claus originates from the Dutch surname of Sinter Klaas, an abbreviated form of Sint Nikolaas (in Dutch for Saint Nicholas).
In 1804 John Pintard, a member of the New-York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts to Santa Nicholas at the annual meeting of the association. The background of the woodblock contains an engraving of the now-familiar Santa images, including socks full of toys and fruit hanging over the fireplace.
In 1809, Washington Irving helped promote the stories of Santa Claus when he referred to Saint Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book The History of New York.
Santa Claus in shopping malls
Gift-giving that focuses primarily on children has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday renewal in the early 1800s.
Stores also began advertising and shopping for Santa Claus at Christmas, and by the 1840s newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday ads that often featured images of the newly famous Santa Claus.
In 1841, thousands of children visited a store in Philadelphia to see a mockup of Santa Claus, and it was only a matter of time before the stores began to attract children and their parents by luring them peek at the “living” Santa Claus.
In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they gave to needy families, so they began dressing unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them to the streets of New York to ask for donations, and since then the familiar Santa Claus in the Salvation Army has persisted. To ring the bells on street corners of American cities.
Perhaps the most famous Santa store is Chris Kringle in the classic 1947 Santa Claus movie “Miracle on 34 Street”. Natalie Wood plays a young girl who thinks Chris Kringel (played by Edmund Gwenn who won an Oscar for the role) when he says he’s the real Santa Claus.
“Miracle on 34 Street” was remade in 1994 and starred by Lord Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson.
Macy’s Santa has appeared in nearly every Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since it began in 1924, and fans of all ages are still lining up to meet Macy’s Santa in New York City and in stores across the country, where kids can snap pictures in Santa’s lap and tell him what they want in birthday.
Twas the night before Christmas
In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal priest, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. Nicholas, more commonly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.
Moore’s poem that he was reluctant to publish at first due to the trivial nature of its subject matter is largely responsible for our modern perceptions of Santa Claus as a fat person with a supernatural ability to ascend chimneys using just a nod to his head!
Although some of Moore’s visualizations may have been borrowed from other sources, his poem helped spread the now-familiar image of Santa Claus flying from house to house on Christmas Eve in a “miniature sleigh” driven by eight reindeer to leave gifts for children.
The “The Story of a Visit from Saint Nicholas” created a new and instantly popular American icon.
In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted Santa as a fat, cheerful man with a chubby white beard and carrying a sack full of children’s toys.
And so it was Nast who gave Santa his bright red, white fur suit.
Santa Claus around the world
Santa Claus in America in the 18th century wasn’t the only Saint Nicholas-inspired gift giver that appeared on Christmas, there are similar characters and Christmas traditions all over the world.
Whereas it was believed that Christkind or Kris Kringle gave gifts to Swiss and German children, Christkind which means “Christ’s child” is an angel-like character who often accompanies Saint Nicholas on his vacation expeditions.
And in Scandinavia, a cheerful dwarf named Jultomten was thought to give gifts on a goat-drawn sleigh.
Père Noël is responsible for filling French children’s shoes with gifts.
In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Baboushka deliberately gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they could not find Jesus, and later felt remorse but could not find the men to repair the damage, and to this day on January 5 Babushka visits Russian children leaving gifts on their beds in the hope that someone will be Jesus’ child to forgive her.
And in Italy there is a similar story about a woman named La Befana, a gentle witch who rides a broomstick, going down the chimneys of Italian homes, to deliver toys to the socks of lucky children.
Christmas traditions in the United States
In the United States, Santa Claus is often portrayed as traveling from home to home on Christmas Eve to deliver toys to children, flying on his magic sled led by reindeer Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and the most famous of which is Rudolph’s reindeer…
Santa Claus also enters every home through the chimney which is why the empty Christmas stockings next to the chimney are for the occasion, carefully hung near the chimney in the hope that Saint Nicholas will pass by.
Clement Clark Moore wrote in his famous poem, “Socks can be filled with candy canes and other foods or small toys.”
Santa Claus and his wife Mrs. Claus also live in the Arctic, and children write letters to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve asking for gifts from him, and children often leave sweets and milk for Santa and leave the islands for the reindeer.
Santa Claus also maintains a “list of bad kids” and a “list of good kids” to determine who deserves gifts on Christmas morning, and parents often use these lists as a way to ensure their children’s behavior.