Santa Claus

Santa Claus

Overview

Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

(also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa) is a folklore
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus. In today's North American, European and worldwide celebration of Christmas, people young and old simply refer to the hero of the season as Santa, or Santa Claus.

Conventionally, Santa Claus is portrayed as a kindly, round-bellied, merry, bespectacled white man in a red coat trimmed with white fur, with a long white beard
Beard
A beard is the collection of hair that grows on the chin, cheeks and neck of human beings. Usually, only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. However, women with hirsutism may develop a beard...

.
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Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

(also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa) is a folklore
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus. In today's North American, European and worldwide celebration of Christmas, people young and old simply refer to the hero of the season as Santa, or Santa Claus.

Conventionally, Santa Claus is portrayed as a kindly, round-bellied, merry, bespectacled white man in a red coat trimmed with white fur, with a long white beard
Beard
A beard is the collection of hair that grows on the chin, cheeks and neck of human beings. Usually, only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. However, women with hirsutism may develop a beard...

. On Christmas Eve, he rides in his sleigh pulled by flying reindeer
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

 from house to house to give presents to children. To enter the house, Santa Claus comes down the chimney
Chimney
A chimney is a structure for venting hot flue gases or smoke from a boiler, stove, furnace or fireplace to the outside atmosphere. Chimneys are typically vertical, or as near as possible to vertical, to ensure that the gases flow smoothly, drawing air into the combustion in what is known as the...

 and exits through the fireplace
Fireplace
A fireplace is an architectural structure to contain a fire for heating and, especially historically, for cooking. A fire is contained in a firebox or firepit; a chimney or other flue allows gas and particulate exhaust to escape...

. During the rest of the year he lives together with his wife Mrs. Claus and his elves
Elf
An elf is a being of Germanic mythology. The elves were originally thought of as a race of divine beings endowed with magical powers, which they use both for the benefit and the injury of mankind...

 manufacturing toy
Toy
A toy is any object that can be used for play. Toys are associated commonly with children and pets. Playing with toys is often thought to be an enjoyable means of training the young for life in human society. Different materials are used to make toys enjoyable and cuddly to both young and old...

s. Some modern depictions of Santa (often in advertising and popular entertainment) will show the elves and Santa's workshop as more of a processing and distribution facility, ordering and receiving the toys from various toy manufacturers from across the world. According to American public opinion, Santa Claus lives in the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

, though North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

 and there is no land. According to legend the Santa Claus at Macy's
Macy's
Macy's is a U.S. chain of mid-to-high range department stores. In addition to its flagship Herald Square location in New York City, the company operates over 800 stores in the United States...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 is often said to be the real Santa Claus.

Since most activities associated with Santa Claus are extraordinary, such as delivering presents to all of the believing children in one night, how he squeezes down chimneys, how he enters homes without chimneys, why he never dies, and how he makes reindeer fly, magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

 is usually used to explain his actions.

Origins



The modern Santa Claus is thought to be a composite character from the merging of quite separate figures.

Ancient Christian origins


The first of these is Saint Nicholas of Myra, a 4th century AD Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 of Myra
Myra
Myra is an ancient town in Lycia, where the small town of Kale is situated today in present day Antalya Province of Turkey. It was located on the river Myros , in the fertile alluvial plain between Alaca Dağ, the Massikytos range and the Aegean Sea.- Historical evidence :Although some scholars...

 in Lycia
Lycia
Lycia Lycian: Trm̃mis; ) was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire...

, a province of Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was born at Patara, province of Lycia, Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

) he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical
Canonical
Canonical is an adjective derived from canon. Canon comes from the greek word κανών kanon, "rule" or "measuring stick" , and is used in various meanings....

 robe
Robe
A robe is a loose-fitting outer garment. A robe is distinguished from a cape or cloak by the fact that it usually has sleeves. The English word robe derives from Middle English robe , borrowed from Old French robe , itself taken from the Frankish word *rouba , and is related to the word rob...

s. The relics of St. Nicholas were transported to Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

 in southern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 by some enterprising Italian merchant
Merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

s; a basilica
Basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...

 was constructed in 1087 to house them and the area became a pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 site for the devout. Saint Nicholas became revered by many as the patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of seamen, merchants, archers
Archers
Archers may refer to:*People who practice archery*The Royal Company of Archers, a Scottish ceremonial unit*The Archers, long running BBC Radio 4 soap opera*"The Archers", nickname for British film-making partnership of Powell and Pressburger...

, children, prostitutes, pharmacists, lawyers, pawn brokers, prisoners, the city of Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 and of Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. In Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Saint Nicholas is sometimes substituted for Saint Basil (Vasilis in Greek), a 4th century AD bishop from Caesarea. Also, a few villages in West Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, Belgium, celebrate a near identical figure, Sint-Maarten (Saint Martin of Tours).

Germanic folklore


Prior to the Germanic peoples' conversion to Christianity, Germanic folklore contained stories about the god Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

 (Wodan), who would each year, at Yule
Yule
Yule or Yuletide is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January...

, have a great hunting party accompanied by his fellow gods and the fallen warriors residing in his realm. Children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw
Straw
Straw is an agricultural by-product, the dry stalks of cereal plants, after the grain and chaff have been removed. Straw makes up about half of the yield of cereal crops such as barley, oats, rice, rye and wheat. It has many uses, including fuel, livestock bedding and fodder, thatching and...

 or sugar
Sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

, Sleipnir
Sleipnir
In Norse mythology, Sleipnir is an eight-legged horse. Sleipnir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson...

, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy
Candy
Candy, specifically sugar candy, is a confection made from a concentrated solution of sugar in water, to which flavorings and colorants are added...

. (Note that the Sleipnir has eight legs, corresponding to Santa's eight reindeer.) This practice survived in Belgium and the Netherlands after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas. Children still place their straw filled shoes at the chimney every winter night, and Saint Nicholas (who, unlike Santa, is still riding a horse) rewards them with candy and gifts. Odin's appearance was often similar to that of Saint Nicholas, being depicted as an old, mysterious man with a beard. (Other features, like the absence of one eye, are not found in Saint Nicholas.) This practice in turn came to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 via the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam was a 17th-century Dutch colonial settlement that served as the capital of New Netherland. It later became New York City....

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 prior to the British seizure in the 17th century, and evolved into the hanging of socks or stockings at the fireplace.

Another early folk tale, originating among the Germanic tribes, tells of a holy man (sometimes Saint Nicholas), and a demon
Demon
call - 1347 531 7769 for more infoIn Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered an "unclean spirit" which may cause demonic possession, to be addressed with an act of exorcism...

 (sometimes the Devil, Krampus
Krampus
Krampus is a mythical creature recognized in Alpine countries. According to legend, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children....

, or a troll
Troll
A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In origin, the term troll was a generally negative synonym for a jötunn , a being in Norse mythology...

). The story states that the land was terrorized by a monster who at night would slither down the chimneys and slaughter children (disembowelling them or stuffing them up the flue
Flue
A flue is a duct, pipe, or chimney for conveying exhaust gases from a fireplace, furnace, water heater, boiler, or generator to the outdoors. In the United States, they are also known as vents and for boilers as breeching for water heaters and modern furnaces...

, or keeping them in a sack to eat later). The holy man sought out the demon, and tricked it with blessed or magical shackles (in some versions the same shackles that imprisoned Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 prior to the crucifixion
Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

, in other versions the shackles were those used to hold St. Peter or Paul of Tarsus
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

); the demon was trapped and forced to obey the saint's orders. The saint ordered him to go to each house and make amends, by delivering gifts to the children. Depending on the version, the saint either made the demon fulfill this task every year, or the demon was so disgusted by the act of good will that it chose to be sent back to Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

. Yet other versions have the demon reform under the saint's orders, and go on to recruit other elves and imps
IMPS
The OMA Instant Messaging and Presence Service is an Open Mobile Alliance enabler for Instant Messaging and Presence. The Wireless Village consortium developed the first cut of the specifications. After Wireless Village was merged with OMA, its specs became OMA IMPS 1.0 specifications. IMPS is...

 into helping him, thus becoming Santa Claus. In an alternate Dutch version, the saint is aided by Moorish slaves, commonly typified as Zwarte Piet
Zwarte Piet
In the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Belgium, Zwarte Piet is a companion of Saint Nicholas whose yearly feast in the Netherlands is usually celebrated on the evening of 5 December In the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Belgium, Zwarte Piet (meaning Black Pete) is a...

 ("Black Peter"). Some tales depict Zwarte Piet beating bad children with a rod or even taking them to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 (formerly ruled by the Moors
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

) in a sack.

Another form of the above tale in Germany is of the Pelznickel or Belsnickle ("Furry Nicholas") who visited naughty children in their sleep. The name originated from the fact that the person appeared to be a huge beast since he was covered from head to toe in furs.

Modern origins



Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and folklore merged with the British character Father Christmas to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus. Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, and was reflected in the "Ghost of Christmas Present" in Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

's A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens first published by Chapman & Hall on 17 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of...

.

The name Santa Claus is derived from Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas is a traditional Winter holiday figure still celebrated today in the Low Countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as French Flanders and Artois...

, the Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 name for the mythical character based on St. Nicholas. He is also known there by the name of Sint Nicolaas which explains the use of the two fairly dissimilar names Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas or St. Nick.

Sinterklaas wears clothing similar to a bishop's. He wears a red miter (a liturgical headdress worn by bishops and abbots) with a "golden" cross and carries a bishop's staff. The connection with the original bishop of Myra is still evident here. He rides a white horse over rooftops and his helpers climb down chimneys to deposit gifts (sometimes in children's shoes by the fireplace). Sinterklaas arrives from Spain on a steamboat
Steamboat
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

 and is accompanied by his assistant Zwarte Piet
Zwarte Piet
In the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Belgium, Zwarte Piet is a companion of Saint Nicholas whose yearly feast in the Netherlands is usually celebrated on the evening of 5 December In the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Belgium, Zwarte Piet (meaning Black Pete) is a...

.


Presents given during this feast are often accompanied by poems, sometimes fairly basic, sometimes quite elaborate pieces of art that mock events in the past year relating to the recipient (who is thus at the receiving end in more than one sense). The gifts themselves may be just an excuse for the wrapping, which can also be quite elaborate. The more serious gifts may be reserved for the next morning. Since the giving of presents is Sinterklaas's job presents are traditionally not given at Christmas in the Netherlands, but commercialism is starting to tap into this market.

In other countries, the figure of Saint Nicholas was also blended with local folklore. As an example of the still surviving pagan imagery, in Nordic countries
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

 there is the Yule Goat
Yule Goat
The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, "Yule Goat" now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw...

(Swedish julbock), a somewhat startling figure with horns which will deliver the presents on Christmas Eve, and a straw goat is a common Christmas decoration. Later, in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, the gift bringer was seen as identical with the Tomte
Tomte
A tomte , nisse or tonttu is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore. The tomte or nisse was believed to take care of a farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep...

, or tomtenisse, another folklore creature. In Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, the Yule goat is joulupukki.

American origins



In the British colonies of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and later the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further. For example, in Washington Irving
Washington Irving
Washington Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works...

's History of New York, Sinterklaas was Americanized into "Santa Claus" but lost his bishop's apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat. Irving's book was a lampoon
Parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 of the Dutch culture of New York, and much of this portrait is his joking invention.

Modern ideas of Santa Claus seemingly became canon after the publication of the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas
A Visit from St. Nicholas
"A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and generally attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, although the claim has also been made that it was written by Henry...

" (better known today as "The Night Before Christmas") in the Troy, New York
Troy, New York
Troy is a city in the US State of New York and the seat of Rensselaer County. Troy is located on the western edge of Rensselaer County and on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Troy has close ties to the nearby cities of Albany and Schenectady, forming a region popularly called the Capital...

, Sentinel on December 23, 1823. The poem is ascribed to Clement Clarke Moore
Clement Clarke Moore
Clement Clarke Moore was an American professor of Oriental and Greek literature at Columbia College, now Columbia University. He donated land from his family estate for the foundation of the General Theological Seminary, where he was a professor of Biblical learning and compiled a two-volume...

, although there is some question as to his authorship. In this poem Santa is established as a heavyset individual with eight reindeer (who are named for the first time). Santa Claus later appeared in various colored costumes as he gradually became amalgamated with the figure of Father Christmas, but red soon became popular after he appeared wearing such on an 1885 Christmas card
Christmas card
A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas in order to convey between people a range of sentiments related to the Christmas and holiday season. Christmas cards are usually exchanged during the weeks preceding Christmas Day by many people in Western...

. Still, one of the first artists to capture Santa Claus's image as we know him today was Thomas Nast
Thomas Nast
Thomas Nast was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist who is considered to be the "Father of the American Cartoon". He was the scourge of Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall machine...

, an American cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 of the 19th century. In 1863, a picture of Santa illustrated by Nast appeared in Harper's Weekly
Harper's Weekly
Harper's Weekly was an American political magazine based in New York City. Published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916, it featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects, and humor...

(it is believed the inspiration for his image came from the Belsnickel
Belsnickel
Belsnickel is the fur-clad Santa of the Palatinate in southwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald region of Baden-Württemberg....

). Another popularization came in 1902 in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is a 1902 children's book, written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Mary Cowles Clark.-Infancy, Youth, Motivation:...

by L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum
Lyman Frank Baum was an American author of children's books, best known for writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz...

, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900, it has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of...

.

Images of Santa Claus were further cemented through Haddon Sundblom
Haddon Sundblom
Haddon Hubbard "Sunny" Sundblom was an artist best known for the images of Santa Claus he created for The Coca-Cola Company.-Background:Sundblom was born in Muskegon, Michigan to a Swedish-speaking family...

's depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company is an American multinational beverage corporation and manufacturer, retailer and marketer of non-alcoholic beverage concentrates and syrups. The company is best known for its flagship product Coca-Cola, invented in 1886 by pharmacist John Stith Pemberton in Columbus, Georgia...

's Christmas advertising. The popularity of the image spawned urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

s that Santa Claus was in fact invented by Coca-Cola. Nevertheless, Santa Claus and Coca-Cola have been closely associated, except for 2005 when Santa was replaced in advertising by Coca-Cola's polar bears.

The image of Santa Claus as a benevolent character became reinforced with its association with charity and philanthropy
Philanthropy
Philanthropy etymologically means "the love of humanity"—love in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, or enhancing; humanity in the sense of "what it is to be human," or "human potential." In modern practical terms, it is "private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of...

, particularly organizations such as the Salvation Army
Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church known for its thrift stores and charity work. It is an international movement that currently works in over a hundred countries....

. Volunteers dressed as Santa Claus typically became part of fundraising
Fundraising
Fundraising or fund raising is the process of soliciting and gathering voluntary contributions as money or other resources, by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies...

 drives to aid needy families at Christmas time.

Some suspect that the depiction of Santa at the North Pole reflected popular opinion about industry at the time. In some images of the early 20th century, Santa was depicted as personally making his toys by hand in a small workshop like a craftsman.
Eventually, the idea emerged that he had numerous elves responsible for making the toys, but the toys were still handmade by each individual elf working in the traditional manner. By the end of the century, the reality of mass mechanized production became more fully accepted by the Western public. That shift was reflected in the modern depiction of Santa's residence—now often humorously portrayed as a fully mechanized production facility, equipped with the latest manufacturing technology, and overseen by the elves with Santa and Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Claus is the wife of Santa Claus, the Christmas gift-bringer in North American Christmas tradition.While Santa Claus himself emerged from the 1820s from a number of traditions of European folklore, Mrs...

 as managers [see Nissenbaum, chap. 2; Belk, 87–100]. Many television commercials depict this as a sort of humorous business, with Santa's elves acting as a sometimes mischievously disgruntled workforce, cracking jokes and pulling pranks on their boss. Santa Claus continues to inspire writers and artists, such as in author Seabury Quinn
Seabury Quinn
Seabury Grandin Quinn was an American pulp magazine author, most famous for his stories of the occult detective Jules de Grandin, published in Weird Tales.-Biography:...

's 1948 novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 Roads. Other additions to early ideas of Santa include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is a fictional reindeer with a glowing red nose. He is popularly known as "Santa's 9th Reindeer" and, when depicted, is the lead reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. The luminosity of his nose is so great that it illuminates the team's path through...

, the ninth reindeer immortalized in a Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Orvon Grover Autry , better known as Gene Autry, was an American performer who gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television for more than three decades beginning in the 1930s...

 song, written by a Montgomery Ward
Montgomery Ward
Montgomery Ward is an online retailer that carries the same name as the former American department store chain, founded as the world's #1 mail order business in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward, and which went out of business in 2001...

 copywriter. Adding even more to the legend, a current popular comic book
Comic book
A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

 series Jingle Belle
Jingle Belle
Jingle Belle is a cartoon character created by Paul Dini. She's Santa Claus' spoiled teen-age daughter. The stories depict Jingle's usually contentious relationship with her famous father....

by writer/cartoonist Paul Dini
Paul Dini
Paul Dini is an American writer and producer who works in the television and comic book industries. He is best known as a producer and writer for several Warner Bros./DC Comics animated series, including Star Wars: Ewoks, Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated...

 depicts Santa Claus as a harried father with a rebellious half-human, half-elf teenage daughter.

Songs



Over the years, Santa Claus has inspired several songs and even orchestral works. As early as 1853, Louis Antoine Jullien
Louis Antoine Jullien
Louis Antoine Jullien was a French conductor and composer of light music.Jullien was born in Sisteron, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and was baptised Louis George Maurice Adolphe Roche Albert Abel Antonio Alexandre Noë Jean Lucien Daniel Eugène Joseph-le-brun Joseph-Barême Thomas Thomas Thomas-Thomas...

 composed an orchestral piece titled Santa Claus which premiered to mixed reviews in New York that year [Horowitz, 213]. More popular, well-known songs about Santa Claus (mostly sung by children) include:
  • "It's Christmas (All Over The World)
    It's Christmas (All Over the World)
    "It's Christmas " is a song written by Bill House and John Hobbs. The recording of the song was produced by Keith Olsen for Pogologo Corporation, and sung by Sheena Easton....

    " (1985) by Bill House and John Hobbs, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of Santa Claus: The Movie
    Santa Claus: The Movie
    Santa Claus: The Movie is a 1985 British/American Christmas film starring Dudley Moore and John Lithgow. It is the last major fantasy film produced by the Paris-based father-and-son production team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind...

    , sung by Sheena Easton
    Sheena Easton
    Sheena Easton is a Scottish recording artist. Easton became famous for being the focus of an episode in the British television programme The Big Time, which recorded her attempts to gain a record contract and her eventual signing with EMI Records.Easton rose to fame in the early 1980s with the pop...

    .
  • "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
    Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
    "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is a novelty Christmas song, which led to the creation of an animated movie with the same title.Written by Randy Brooks, the song was originally performed by the husband and wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979...

    " (1979) by Randy Brooks, recorded by Elmo Shropshire
    Elmo Shropshire
    Elmo Shropshire, D.V.M. , better known as Dr. Elmo, is a singer of comedy songs, most notably "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." He originally recorded the song in 1979 with his then-wife Patsy. He re-recorded it solo in 1992 for the album Dr. Elmo's Twisted Christmas and again in 2000 for the...

     and Patsy Trigg.
  • "Here Comes Santa Claus
    Here Comes Santa Claus
    "Here Comes Santa Claus " is a Christmas song written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman.Autry got the idea for the song after riding his horse in the 1946 Santa Claus Lane Parade in Los Angeles, during which crowds of spectators chanted, "Here comes Santa Claus". This inspired him to write a song...

    " (1947) by Gene Autry
    Gene Autry
    Orvon Grover Autry , better known as Gene Autry, was an American performer who gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television for more than three decades beginning in the 1930s...

     and Oakley Haldeman
    Oakley Haldeman
    Oakley Haldeman was a songwriter , composer, author and the general manager for a music publisher...

    .
  • "I Believe in Father Christmas
    I Believe in Father Christmas
    "I Believe In Father Christmas" is a song by Greg Lake , with lyrics by Peter Sinfield.Although it is often categorised as a Christmas song this was not Lake's intention...

    " by Greg Lake
    Greg Lake
    Gregory Stuart "Greg" Lake is an English musician, songwriter and producer, best known as a vocalist and bassist of King Crimson, and the bassist, guitarist, vocalist, and lyricist of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.-1960s: King Crimson:...

     and Peter Sinfield
    Peter Sinfield
    Peter John Sinfield is an English poet, lyricist and artist, most famously known as the lyricist and co-founding member of early incarnations of King Crimson, whose debut album In the Court of the Crimson King has been regarded as one of the most influential progressive rock albums ever...

    .
  • "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" traditional.
  • "Little Saint Nick
    Little Saint Nick
    "Little Saint Nick" is a Christmas song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love and originally performed by their group The Beach Boys. It was first released as a single in December 1963, reaching number three on the Billboard Christmas charts and peaking at #69 on the regular weekly sales chart...

    " by Brian Wilson
    Brian Wilson
    Brian Douglas Wilson is an American musician, best known as the leader and chief songwriter of the group The Beach Boys. Within the band, Wilson played bass and keyboards, also providing part-time lead vocals and, more often, backing vocals, harmonizing in falsetto with the group...

    , performed by The Beach Boys
    The Beach Boys
    The Beach Boys are an American rock band, formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California. The group was initially composed of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. Managed by the Wilsons' father Murry, The Beach Boys signed to Capitol Records in 1962...

    .
  • "The Night Santa Went Crazy
    The Night Santa Went Crazy
    "The Night Santa Went Crazy" is an original song by "Weird Al" Yankovic. The darkly humorous Christmas song is performed as a style parody of "Black Gold" by Soul Asylum, with melodic references to "Mama I'm Comin' Home" by Ozzy Osbourne and "I Believe in Father Christmas" by Greg Lake...

    " (1996) by "Weird Al" Yankovic
    "Weird Al" Yankovic
    Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic is an American singer-songwriter, music producer, accordionist, actor, comedian, writer, satirist, and parodist. Yankovic is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts...

     (satire
    Satire
    Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

    ).
  • "Santa Baby
    Santa Baby
    "Santa Baby" is a 1953 Christmas song written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer. Although Tony Springer is listed as co-writer, he was a legal fiction created for purposes of membership in the performing rights organization BMI.The song is a tongue-in-cheek look at a Christmas list sung by a...

    " (1953) by Joan Javits, Philip Springer, and Tony Springer
    Tony Springer
    Tony "Wild T" Springer is a Canadian blues-rock guitarist.Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Springer played with a number of reggae and calypso bands as a teenager. He later moved to Canada, settling in Toronto and playing local clubs in a Jimi Hendrix tribute band...

    , performed by Eartha Kitt
    Eartha Kitt
    Eartha Mae Kitt was an American singer, actress, and cabaret star. She was perhaps best known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 hit recordings of "C'est Si Bon" and the enduring Christmas novelty smash "Santa Baby." Orson Welles once called her the "most exciting woman in the...

    .
  • "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
    Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
    "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is a Christmas song. It was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, and was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934....

    " (1935) by J. Fred Coots
    J. Fred Coots
    John Frederick Coots was an American songwriter. He wrote over 700 songs.He is most famous for the song "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", a song that became one of the biggest best sellers in American music history....

     and Haven Gillespie
    Haven Gillespie
    James Lamont "Haven" Gillespie was an American Tin Pan Alley composer and lyricist. He was the writer of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" as well as "You Go to My Head", "Honey", "By the Sycamore Tree", "That Lucky Old Sun", "Breezin' Along With The Breeze", "Right or Wrong," "Beautiful Love",...

    .
  • "Up on the Housetop" traditional.

See also

  • Christmas
    Christmas
    Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

  • Christmas Eve
    Christmas Eve
    Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

  • Companions of Saint Nicholas
    Companions of Saint Nicholas
    The companions of Saint Nicholas are a group of closely related figures who accompany St. Nicholas in many European traditions.Some companions include:...

  • Father Christmas
    Father Christmas
    Father Christmas is the name used in many English-speaking countries for a figure associated with Christmas. A similar figure with the same name exists in several other countries, including France , Spain , Brazil , Portugal , Italy , Armenia , India...

  • Ho ho ho
    Ho ho ho
    "Ho ho ho" is a rendition of a particular type of deep-throated laugh or chuckle which is of Gaelic derivation. It is also used as the laugh of Santa Claus and the Jolly Green Giant.Also as "expressing laughter" is recorded from c...

  • Saint Nicholas of Myra
  • Zwarte Piet
    Zwarte Piet
    In the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Belgium, Zwarte Piet is a companion of Saint Nicholas whose yearly feast in the Netherlands is usually celebrated on the evening of 5 December In the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Belgium, Zwarte Piet (meaning Black Pete) is a...


External links