Santa Claus

Where Does the Legend of Santa Claus Originally Come From?

Any child knows where Santa Claus comes from- the North Pole! However, his historical adventure is far longer and more excellent than his yearly one-night round of the globe. The contemporary American Santa’s ancestor was born in the Mediterranean during the Roman Empire. His legend spread over northern Europe. He ultimately took on his now-famous shape on the coasts of the New World.

Saint Nick is fundamental to the celebration—and commercialization—of Christmas in cultures and countries worldwide. As we know him now, Santa Claus bears little similarity to Saint Nicholas. Nonetheless, the figure has become a Christmas symbol. The cheery, red-suited, white-bearded figure is a significant component of the holiday’s celebration—and commercialization—for many people worldwide.

Santa Claus
Credit: Pixabay

St. Nicolas

Every December 6, the faithful across the world commemorate St. Nicholas Day, with the primary celebrations taking place in Europe. St. Nicholas depictions vary greatly, but none resemble the red-cheeked, white-bearded old guy seen everywhere today. One of the most convincing depictions of the genuine St. Nick, who lived in the third and fourth centuries, was constructed using current forensic face reconstruction instead of ancient painters.

Scholarly disagreement concerning the location of the Greek bishop’s remains continues today. However, it was formerly thought that the bones of St. Nicholas were kidnapped by Italian sailors during the 11th century and carried to the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola on Italy’s southeast coast. When the crypt was restored in the 1950s, the saint’s skull and bones were photographed and measured in great detail.

Santa Claus OutLook

A face anthropologist from the University of Manchester in England, Caroline Wilkinson, utilized this information and current software simulations to reconstruct the long-dead guy’s modern reconstruction. Wilkinson gave Santa’s original namesake a human face, one with a damaged nose, probably from the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

Much of her art is, by definition, open to interpretation. The size and shape of the facial muscles that originally covered Nicholas’s skull had to be estimated. The shape of the skull itself had to be rebuilt from two-dimensional data. The olive-toned complexion most typical among Greek Mediterraneans like Nicholas, brown eyes, and the grey hair of a 60-year-old guy were all created by digital artists based on best assumptions.

From Revered Bishop to Gift Giver

How did this St. Nicholas become the North Pole’s bringer of Christmas gifts? The first saint was a Greek-born around 280 A.D. in the late third century. He was appointed bishop of Myra, a little Roman town in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas was neither plump nor merry, but he earned a reputation as a fiery, wiry, and stubborn defender of church orthodoxy during the Great Persecution of 303 when Bibles were burnt, priests were forced to forsake Christianity or face death.

Nicholas opposed these edicts and spent years in jail before the Roman emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which halted Christian persecution in 313. Because he was linked with miracles, Nicholas’ renown lasted long after his death (falls on December 6 in the mid-fourth century, about 343). Veneration for him continues to this day, regardless of his Christmas connection. He protects individuals, from orphans to sailors to convicts.

St. Nicholas
Credit: Pasadena Weekly

Because he was the patron saint of so many organizations, Nicholas rose to prominence among the saints. Because of two fantastic legends from his life, he became recognized as a patron of children and magical gift-bringer by around 1200, according to University of Manitoba historian Gerry Bowler, author of Santa Claus: A Biography. In the most famous version, three young girls are spared from a life of prostitution when a young Bishop Nicholas secretly sends three bags of gold to their indebted father, which may be used for their dowries.

Tales of St Nicholas

Nicholas walked into an inn whose proprietor had recently killed three lads and pickled their mutilated remains in cellar barrels. The bishop not only detected the crime but also revived the victims. For several hundred years, from around 1200 to 1500, St. Nicholas was the unrivalled bringer of presents and the toast of celebrations focused on his feast day, December 6. The austere saint resembled older European deities such as the Roman Saturn or the Norse Odin, who appeared as white-bearded men with supernatural powers such as flying. He also ensured that the children followed the rules by praying and behaving well.

Saints like Nicholas, however, fell out of favour across most of Northern Europe once the Protestant Reformation began in the 1500s. Then the responsibility fell to infant Jesus in many situations, and the date was changed to December 25 rather than December 6. But the infant’s carrying capacity is quite limited, and he’s not frightened. As a result, the Christ child was frequently assigned a frightening assistant to handle the lugging of presents and the threatening of children, which does not seem suitable coming from the infant Jesus.”

Some of these frightening Germanic creatures, such as Ru-Klaus (Rough Nicholas), Aschenklas (Ashy Nicholas), and Pelznickel, were modelled on Nicholas, but not as a saint, but as a terrifying sidekick (Furry Nicholas). These people expected excellent conduct or subjected youngsters to punishments such as whippings or kidnappings. However, despite their dissimilarity to the merry guy in red, these colourful figures would eventually play a role in the formation of Santa himself.

Arrival in the United States

In the Netherlands, children and families refused to abandon St. Nicholas as a gift bearer. Instead, they transported Sinterklaas with them to the New World colonies, where the traditions of the hairy and frightening Germanic gift bearers persisted.

However, Christmas in early America was not like the present celebration. The celebration had become a bit like the pagan Saturnalia that had formerly held its position on the calendar in New England. It became a bit like the pagan Saturnalia that had once occupied its place on the calendar elsewhere. All of that changed in the early decades of the nineteenth century due to a group of poets and authors who worked to make Christmas a family festival by resurrecting and rebuilding St. Nicholas.

In Washington Irving’s 1809 novel Knickerbocker’s History of New York, a pipe-smoking Nicholas swooped over the roofs in a flying waggon, distributing gifts to good girls and boys and switching to wicked ones.

An anonymous illustrated poem titled “The Children’s Friend”, published in 1821, went a long way toward shaping the contemporary Santa and associating him with Christmas. “At long last, we have the appearance of a Santa Claus,” Bowler stated. “They’ve taken St. Nicholas’ supernatural gift-giving, stripped him of all religious aspects, and clothed this Santa in the furs of those hairy Germanic present bringers.”

That character gave presents to excellent girls and boys, but he also wore a birch rod, which “directs a Parent’s hand to employ when virtue’s road his kids refuse,” according to the poem. A single reindeer drove Santa’s narrow waggon, but both the driver and the team would undergo substantial transformations the following year.

A Visit from St Nicholas

Clement Clarke Moore penned “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” for his six children in 1822, with no intention of contributing to the burgeoning Santa Claus myth. The following year, it was published anonymously, and to this day, the chubby, cheerful Santa portrayed in it rides a sleigh drawn by eight recognized reindeer. However, as well-known as the poem is, it still left plenty to the imagination, and the nineteenth century saw Santa emerge in a variety of varied colours, sizes ranging from small to huge, and guises.

He said that it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the picture of Santa became established as a full-size figure clothed in red with white fur trim, travelling forth from the North Pole on a reindeer-drawn sleigh and keeping an eye on children’s behaviour.

This Santa’s cheerful, chubby, grandfatherly visage mainly was drawn by Thomas Nast, a brilliant political cartoonist in an era when there were many. Once established, North America’s Santa conducted a type of reverse migration to Europe, replacing the frightening gift bearers and adopting local titles such as Père Noel (France) or Father Christmas (England) (Great Britain).

The Santa Menace

Though he has good intentions, Santa has caused and continues to cause more than his fair share of controversy.

Santa Claus ran afoul of Josef Stalin in Russia. Before the Russian Revolution, Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz) was a popular Christmas figure who resembled proto-Santas such as the Dutch Sinterklaas. Attempts to supplant Christmas in Russia were eventually unsuccessful, as were Soviet efforts to promote a secular version of Grandfather Frost across Europe, replete with blue coat to avoid Santa mistake.

Santa Claus is still a highly political icon across the world. In the years following World War II, American forces carried their version of the cheerful guy across the world. But, according to Bowler, he was primarily embraced as a symbol of American generosity in reconstructing war-ravaged areas. Nowadays, however, Santa is on many people’s naughty list, either because he symbolizes the secular side of Christmas at the expense of the religious or because he represents the secular side of Christmas at the expense of the religious. In addition, Santa is sometimes turned down because he is not a local. Such attempts are unlikely to halt rising interest in Santa Claus, but their organizers may save him a few trips on his hectic Christmas Eve itinerary.

Merry Christmas, Father Christmas

Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, is a mythological person who is the traditional patron of Christmas in the United States and other nations, delivering presents to children. His iconic image is based on stories related to Saint Nicholas, a Christian saint from the fourth century. However, in several European nations, Father Christmas plays the job.

The Dutch are credited for bringing the tale of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) to New Amsterdam (now New York City) and the custom of giving children presents and sweets on his feast day, December 6. Santa Claus as we know him today is based on illustrations produced by cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly beginning in 1863.

The depiction heavily influenced Nast’s Santa in the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” initially published in 1823. The image was further established by Haddon Sundblum’s iconic Santa Claus advertising for the Coca-Cola Company beginning in 1931. Sundblum’s Santa was a lanky white-bearded guy clothed in a crimson suit with a black belt and white fur trim, black boots, and a soft red hat. Santa Claus is claimed to dwell with his wife at the North Pole, where he spends the year making gifts with the assistance of his elves. There, he receives messages from youngsters requesting Christmas presents.

Father Christmas
Credit: Reader and Writers Hub

Father Christmas and His Gifts

On Christmas Eve, he fills his sleigh with toys and flies across the world, drawn by eight reindeer, stopping at each child’s house; he slides down the chimney and leaves the gifts, replenishing himself with milk and cookies left for him by the children.

Though the current Santa Claus has degraded into a secularised character surrounded by imagination, his image may serve to remind us of the faithful St. Nicholas, a man who dedicated his life to serving God and encouraged others to do the same. All saints exist to bring honour to God, not to detract from him.

The most important person in the Christmas season is Jesus, the Christ. However, because Saint Nicholas represents a spirit of giving and compassion, we commemorate him and give gifts in his honour. Santa Claus may be a healthy part of our festivities since Saint Nicholas set a fantastic example of aiding the needy. If Santa Claus has become too commercial, too secularised, perhaps it is as stated by Allan Hauck, ‘because we have lost his historical beginning in the loving Bishop of Myra who accepted Christ’s instruction that we aid all those in need.’

We celebrate Christmas as God himself came to earth in human form. However, once he went to heaven and his bodily presence on earth ceased, Jesus entrusted Christians to be his “body.” According to all accounts, St. Nicholas lived a life that assisted others in seeing the truth of Christ.

Conclusion

Children, young and old alike, excitedly await Christmas, believing that Santa Claus would arrive and shower them with presents and blessings for the prosperous year ahead. Christmas Eve is all about Santa Claus, children wishing their gifts and eagerly looking forward to Santa Claus arriving them post-midnight and dropping off gifts from their wish list near the Christmas tree and stockings. The red chubby Santa Claus is much awaited and wished for each year! So, place your stockings on your Christmas tree and welcome the pleasure and merriment of the season!

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