Specifically, our current Santa came to life courtesy of Washington Irving. Hundreds of men and women dressed up as Santa Claus, reindeer, and elves taking part in Santacon, London, 2013. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). This image was developed by illustrator Haddon Sundblum for the Coca-Cola Company’s Santa Claus advertisements from 1931, though it has roots in 19th-century illustrations by Thomas Nast. If you were to ask people where the legend of Santa Claus began, they’d probably start by telling you that the name “Santa” is merely a moniker for Saint Nicholas, a man who existed a long time ago and was renowned for his generosity toward children. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland. Santa Claus himself was not a real, historical person, but the modern character of Santa was most likely created from different traditions from European and Christian culture, such as the real-life Roman Catholic saint Saint Nicholas, the Dutch Sinterklaas, and others. The story of Santa Claus begins with a Greek speaking man in a Roman town called Myra many years ago in what is now present day Turkey. According to the National Geographic article, “From St. Nicholas to Santa Claus: The Surprising Origins of Kris Kringle,” Nicholas was born in the latter part of the third century around 280 C.E. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. The Legend of St. Nicholas: The Real Santa Claus, Christmas Traditions in the United States, Vintage Photos of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Meet Krampus, the Christmas Devil Who Punishes Naughty Children. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country’s English-speaking majority under the name, …is the devilish companion of St. Nicholas. In Italy, there is a story of a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children. “Miracle on 34 Street” was remade in 1994 and starred Lord Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson. Père Noël is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. Yes, the true history of Christmas is as colorful ...read more, The War on Christmas begins around the same time each year, when stores start peddling plastic Christmas trees and giant Santa Claus inflatables. It is said that on Christmas Eve Santa Claus loads his sleigh with toys and flies around the world, drawn by nine reindeer. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences every year since 1964. https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/santa-claus. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. The of Santa has been around for a long time. ...read more, Who’s ready for an early Christmas gift? History of Santa Claus. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today. For the next 30 years Nast continued to draw Santa changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today. Find out more about the history of Santa Claus from his earliest origins to the shopping mall Santas of today, and discover how two New Yorkers—Clement Clark Moore and Thomas Nast—were major influences on the Santa Claus millions of children wait for each Christmas Eve. The image was further defined by the popular Santa Claus advertisements created for the Coca-Cola Company from 1931 by illustrator Haddon Sundblum. Santa enters each home through the chimney, which is why empty Christmas stockings—once empty socks, now often dedicated stockings made for the occasion—are “hung by the Chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there,” as Clement Clarke Moore wrote in his famous poem. Updates? Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday’s rejuvenation in the early 19th century. An Exclusive Documentary About christmas . Nicholas used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” created a new and immediately popular American icon. © 2021 A&E Television Networks, LLC. St. Nicholas is also the patron saint of banking, pawnbroking, scholarship, pirating, butchery, sailing, … Santa Claus is a legendary character originating in Western Christian culture who brings gifts on Christmas Eve to well-behaved children or coal for naughty children. It was Dutch immigrants who originally brought the legend of Saint Nicholas (who was known to them as Sinterklaas) with them to New Amsterdam, which we now know as New York City. In the past Santa Claus was presented in various ways but Nast conceived and introduced our modern image of Santa Claus. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a “live” Santa Claus. New Yorkers embracing their Dutch roots started popularizing stories of Santa Claus, an Americanization of Sinterklaas, in the early 1800s. While it is tough to catch Santa Claus on Christmas Eve when he is said to come down the chimney, it is possible to spot Santa in shopping malls and other places in the United States and elsewhere around Christmastime. The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. There he receives letters from children asking for Christmas gifts. Santa is such an important part of our lives, whether as a kid or an adult taking children to see Santa, getting presents, etc. This was just a lovely article on this history of Santa Claus and as others have commented, we need something uplifting to read once in a while. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Christmas Traditions in the United States. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. SEE MORE: Vintage Photos of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He was born to wealthy parents, who died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Santa Claus is said to live at the North Pole with his wife, where he spends the year making toys with the help of his elves. There are … Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership. 32. They also brought the Christmas traditions of their homeland, which included giving gifts and sweets to children on December 6, the day of his feast. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. The history of Santa Claus and the connection to the U.S. Civil war During the early 19th century, Santa was sketched differently from artist to artist, sometimes skinny, often short, and he … The American version of the Santa Claus figure received its inspiration and its name from the Dutch legend of Sinter Klaas, brought by settlers to New York in the 17th century. There are two small references to Santa Claus in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer in the 1770s, one of which refers to “St. We went back more than 500 hundred years in history to find out. The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s. Santacon is a rowdy holiday bar crawl popular in cities around the world. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. The history of Santa Claus begins a long time ago, in 270 AD. His popular image is based on traditions associated with Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian saint. Perhaps the most iconic department store Santa is Kris Kringle in the 1947 classic Santa Claus movie “Miracle on 34 Street.” A young Natalie Wood played a little girl who believes Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn, who won an Oscar for the role) when he says he is the real Santa Claus. There are similar figures and Christmas traditions around the world. Stopping at each child’s house, he slides down the chimney and leaves gifts, refreshing himself with milk and cookies left for him by the household’s children. History of Santa Claus . This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Santa-Claus. The mispronunciation stuck making Sinterklaas into Santa Claus. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. 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