Where Did the Legend of Santa Come From?

Where Did the Legend of Santa Come From?

In America, the most popular way of celebrating Christmas for children is the tradition of getting presents from Santa Claus. There are many ways people celebrate holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, and more. For the holiday of Christmas, it is about a man called Santa Claus who lives in the North Pole with elves and his wife, Mrs. Claus. He travels around the world on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to children. Many people around the world know about Santa and what he does, but how many know the story of how his legend came to be?

This legend can be traced back to 280 A.D. Myra (modern day Turkey), based on a man named St. Nicholas. From the stories passed down, St. Nicholas is told to be kind and generous, that he gave up his wealth and instead went to less fortunate places in the country to help the ill and poor. An example of his kindness is when he provided 3 sisters with a dowry (property and/or money that a bride gives to a husband) so they could get married instead of being sold into slavery. Saint Nicholas is known as the protector of children and sailors.

Centuries later in December 1773, Nicholas popped up in American culture. Newspapers were reporting about Dutch families who honored the anniversary of his death. The Dutch name for him was Sinter Klaas, which grew into Santa Claus. In 1809 Washington Irving popularized the stories, as he then began to be described as a man with a “broad brimmed hat and Flemish trunk hose.”

The gift giving practice began in 1820 when stores started advertising Christmas items and showing images of Santa Claus. Next, in 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote his poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. This sparked the image of Santa being a “jolly old elf” with the ability to travel through the chimney with a nod of his head. Then after thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life size Santa model in 1841, live Santas in shops appeared everywhere. In 1890, men dressed up as Santa for the Salvation Army to solicit donations, then in 1931 Coca- Cola used Santa in their Christmas advertisements. This illustration of Santa became the more modern version we know now.

Since then, the legend and traditions of Santa Claus has evolved to include things such as stockings, his group of reindeers, leaving cookies and milk out, writing letters, naughty and nice list, and more. What else could evolve from this legend?