Most children know Santa Claus as a big, round, red-cheeked,
joyous, old gentleman who delivers Christmas gifts clad in
black boots and a red and white suit. But really, who is Santa
Claus and where does Santa Claus come from?
The legend of Santa Claus dates all the way back to the 4th
century when a child named Nicholas was born. At that time,
nobody knew that he was to become world renowned as Santa
Claus, but Nicholas soon showed signs of special abilities.
Large picture: Santa
As a grown-up he became bishop of Myra in Lycia, a province
of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey, where, according
to legend, he only did good deeds.
One of the deeds later associated with Nicholas as Santa
Claus or gift donor took place when he saved a family from
poverty one night by throwing money through their window.
But Nicholas was capable of much more than that. He could,
by the power of God, bring the dead back to life and save
sailors from storms. Therefore, Nicholas (later known as Santa
Claus) was beatified and initially, was mostly honored by
At first, Nicholas became a Catholic saint, but during the
Reformation hagiolatry was abandoned by the Protestants. However,
it was difficult to just drop St. Nicholas due to his popularity;
thus, he was portrayed without a bishop’s miter and
was named Santa Claus. Coincidentally, Nicolas had died in
December, thus, it was now easy to associate him as Santa
Claus with Christmas and gift-giving.
That’s how St. Nicholas became known under the name
Santa Claus in Europe and later on, also in the USA. His story
was spread by the Dutch sailors berthing in New York. They
called St. Nicholas “Sinterklaas”, and through
translations to American English, he became the American “Santa
Today, Santa Claus is famous all around the world as the
kind, old man who brings Christmas gifts to the children.
Santa Claus has been widely used as a commercial eye catcher,
in particular after 1930, when Coca Cola used him in their
advertisements for the first time. Here he had a big, white
beard, black boots, a big red coat, and an infectious laughter
- exactly like we know and love him today.
However, discussions about his origins continue. St. Nicholas
came from Asia, but today he is associated with snow and
Christmas; therefore, countries like Canada, Finland, Greenland,
Norway, and Sweden are fighting for the right to house the
old gift giver.
Did you know that…
Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks
to the different time zones and the rotation of the
In Poland, Santa Claus gives gifts on the 6th of December.
Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas, Father
Christmas, and Kris Kringle.
In 1866, the artist, Thomas Nast, made a montage entitled,
"Santa Claus and His Works" and for the
first time established Santa as a maker of toys
It was Coca-Cola's magazine advertisements, billboards,
and point-of-sale store displays that exposed nearly
everyone in America to the modern Santa Claus image.