The history of today’s Santa Claus starts as early as the 3rd century AD. Santa’s real predecessor was Saint Nicholas of Greek descent: a bishop of Myra who travelled his region helping the poor and the sick. His charity was remembered by generations after him and his memory is celebrated on 6 December, the anniversary of his death.
The tradition won favor in America when a New York magazine reported on Dutch families gathering to commemorate a certain Sinter Klaas. The present name of Santa Claus originates in the Dutch Sinter Klaas form of Saint Nicholas.
Today’s Santa figure primarily evolved thanks to the contribution of John Pintard, a renowned member of the New York Historical Society, who depicted him in his woodcuts. Fruit and stockings stuffed with toys also appeared on his wood carvings. Santa’s figure gained popularity fast and as a result he became the patron saint of New York.
The benign figure going from house to house with eight reindeers to bring presents for children appeared in Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem: Twas The Night Before Christmas.
Based on the poem, Thomas Nast an American cartoonist created Santa’s iconic looks in 1881: the happy white-bearded plum man carrying a huge bag stuffed with presents. Santa’s red suit with white fur trim, his Northern workshop where presents are created in collaboration with Mrs Claus and the Christmas elves were all created by Nast’s imagination.
As a result, by the 1940 Santa Claus has become a widely popular character of tales, songs, children’s books and of course served as a sought-after Christmas gift. And who would not be familiar with Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, Santa’s unique companion, the famous song and movie character?
Today Christmas is all about the benign Santa, our children’s lists and the waiting for the big day.