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History of Christmas : The Story Behind Santa

Dec 14 2022

History of Christmas : The Story Behind Santa

Christmas is a festival celebrated by Christians and Non-Christians worldwide, to celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December. 

It’s a secular holiday in which families decorate the Christmas trees, get presents, bake cakes, and sing carols, and spend cheerful quality time together. 

Wait, did we miss something?

You guessed it - Santa Claus! 

The guy in the wide red suit who’s always been a major part of Christmas and its historical fiction short stories. 

What’s Christmas without our chubby, red guy? Boring, right? 

Well, we all know Santa Claus as the white-bearded, popular mythical character who rides his sleigh, bringing gifts for children on Christmas. 

But in this post, we’ll dig deeper and you’ll find the authentic truth behind Santa Claus history; the story of St. Nicolas - the man behind Santa Claus, the most popular tale of St. Nicolas - one that led to the custom of using stockings on Christmas and the events that took place leading to him being declared as Santa Claus.

So without any further ado, let’s get straight into it.

Santa Claus Origin  : The Common Legend  

In the stories, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole with his wife. He spends the entire year making toys with the help of his elves and gets letters from children, requesting their favorite gifts. And on Christmas eve, he rides on his sleigh to drop gifts for each child through the chimney of their household. 

Saint Nicolas : The Guy Behind Santa Claus 

The history of Santa Claus goes back to the 4th Century when a Bishop known as St. Nicolas lived in Myra of Asia Minor (now Turkey). He inherited a lot of wealth at a young age when his parents died. 

His humble and kind generous nature earned him the reputation of a person who helped the poor and needy by giving them secret gifts. 

There are a lot of legends about St.Nicolas, but here’s the most famous one that talks about how the custom of putting Christmas gifts in stockings first started. Here’s how it goes : 

There was once a poor man who had 3 daughters. He wanted to get his daughters married, but he was so poor that he couldn’t even afford to pay for the dowry (a custom in which the family of the bride makes an offering, usually money, to the family of the bridegroom).

When Nicolas came to know about this, he dropped a bag of gold down the chimney of that man’s house. That bag fell into one of the stockings that were hung to dry by the fireplace. 

The old man discovered it and was overwhelmed with joy, knowing he could finally get his daughters married happily. 

Nicolas repeated the act and dropped another bag of gold when it was time for the second daughter to get married. 

Determined to find out about the person behind this, the old man spent days sitting by the fire, waiting to catch the person responsible for it. 

When the old man finally found out, Nicolas made him promise to not tell anyone. However, word got out, and every time someone received a gift, they thought it was from Nicolas.

His kindness got noticed and was declared a Saint by the people. Hence, the name - Saint Nicolas. 

Yet, no one exactly knows the year and time of his death. It’s believed to be 6th December, but there’s no accurate figure of the year - most assume it to be 343 AD. 

Saint Nicolas: How He Becomes Santa Claus?

In the post-Reformation period of the 16th Century, in Northern Europe, the stories and tales revolving around St. Nicolas started becoming unpopular. 

However, someone was needed to deliver the presents to the children. Consequently, in England, Nicolas came to be known as “Father Christmas” or “St Christmas”, portrayed as an aged character in the Plays during the Middle Ages in the UK. 

In the USA, he came to be called “The Kris Kringle”. And when the Dutch settlers came in, they carried the tales of St. Nicolas with them, and “Kris Kringle” became  “Sinterklaas”, globally known as Santa Claus today.  

Several countries in Europe celebrate St. Nicolas Day on the 6th of December. And it turns out, he became popular amongst the Writers of the 18th Century as well.

“Old Santeclaus with Much Delight”, an anonymous poem of 1821 was the first in history to depict Santa riding his sled, pulled by his Reindeer carrying toys for children. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

What Next?

We can all recall the stories our parents told us about Santa Claus, who has always been portrayed as an exciting, jolly and cheerful character, well-known for bringing gifts for children. 

And now that you’ve finally learned about the original tale of the guy behind Santa Claus, tell us how it feels.

Does it bring back any memories from your childhood? Who was your real Santa back then? Do you have some other fascinating tales you’d like to share with us? If Yes, drop them in the comments. 

Either way, Merry Christmas to you and your family! May you have the best time ever