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The Secret Cult of Santa Claus

Updated on October 3, 2017
Fenixfan profile image

To satisfy my curiosity, I have researched many different subjects that pique my interest. The following article is based on my own research

Santa Claus is known throughout the world, but where did he come from? Santa has a rather diverse origin story that is unknown to most Christmas Carolers.

Who is Santa Claus?

Is Santa Claus a made up person? Yes and No. In the year 270 a man named Nikolaos was born. Nikolaos, who would later be referred to as St. Nicholas, became a bishop of Myra and helped lay out what Christian's now know as the New Testament of the Holy Bible. St. Nicholas was well known for secretly giving gifts, like leaving coins in children's shoes that were left outside at night. This is the reason Santa Claus is often referred to as Saint Nick. Nikolaos lived to be 75 and died on December 6th, 345 AD.

How did Santa get so popular?

Saint Nicholas established a gift giving holiday in Bari, Italy, called the Grandmother of Pasqua Epiphania. The Grandmother of Pasqua Epiphania was supposed to be a gift giving spirit that filled the children's stockings with gifts, which is where we get the tradition of hanging stockings on the fireplace. In 1087, sailors that idolized Saint Nicholas transported his skeleton from Turkey to Italy and made a shrine to him. This would later become a temple for the cult that followed Saint Nicholas. In remembrance of his death, each year on December 6th members of the cult would give each other presents. This laid the foundation for what Christians now refer to as Christmas.

In 2 years time the Nicholas cult spread north to Germany and Ireland. The religious groups in these regions worshiped a Pagan God named Woden. Woden was depicted as having a long white beard and was said to have ridden a horse through the skies on an August evening. This is what gave us the idea that Santa Claus traveled by air. The two, Nicholas and Woden, eventually merged to form a bearded man riding a horse on a solitary evening on December 6th each year.

How did he gain the name Santa Claus?

The Catholic Church, who formerly celebrated a Saturnial festival on the week of the 17th-25th of December, adopted the idea of Santa Claus in order to gain more Pagan followers to the Church, but suggested that St Nicholas rode through the skies on the 25th of December instead of December 6th and distributed gifts to all Catholics.

A Dutch novelist, Washington Irving, wrote "Knickerbocker History", a book that referred to St. Nicholas as Sinterklaas. Upon reading this book, a Union Seminary professor, Clement Moore, wrote a poem entitled "Twas the night before Christmas", including the character Sinterklaas, who he renamed Santa Claus. This is the earliest known documentation of Nicholas being referred to as a Saint. Moore painted a literary picture that depicted Santa Claus having a team of reindeer and climbing down chimneys to deliver gifts to children.

How did Santa get his Image?

A cartoonist for Harper's Weekly, Thomas Nast, published over 2,000 images of what he thought Santa should look like. Nast placed Santa's base at the north pole with an elf crew that built toys for the children of the world. He is also the man that made up the idea that Santa had a Naughty and Nice list. Nast's various images portrayed Santa dressed in a big frock, elfish like, with a long white beard and fat belly, however there was still one final piece missing about Santa's image - the trademark red suit.

In 1931 the Coca Cola company was looking to promote it's product to the rest of the world. So, they hired Swedish Illustrator, Haddon Sundblom. Their pitch to Sundblom was for him to create an image of Santa, garnished in Coca Cola Red and drinking a Coca Cola, thus giving us the historical coca cola-drinking Santa Clause image.

From Patron Saint to Pagan God to Coca Cola marketing strategy, Santa Claus traveled a long way to become the figure we recognize today.

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    • profile image

      motheroftwins 

      6 years ago

      This is good to know, I don't think it will go over well with the kids

    • taylorslaw profile image

      taylorslaw 

      6 years ago from Taylors

      Years ago I read a book that revealed the coca cola connection to santa claus but never went this far back. Thanks for the research.

    • lone77star profile image

      Rod Martin Jr 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      A fascinating story. Thanks for bringing the history of it to life.

    • quicklysilver profile image

      quicklysilver 

      7 years ago from wexford, ireland

      I thought this was going to be about a cult of people who were obsessed with Santa Claus. Doing things like growing white beards, hanging out with small people, riding around on sleighs, etc.

    • YU_First 1 profile image

      YU_First 1 

      7 years ago from Uganda

      The hub made interesting reading to me since I had just written one thru the hubmob weekly topic. I especially enjoyed the link to Coca Cola. I was unaware of that fact.

      Thanks for an informative article.

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      7 years ago

      A fun read. I like how you were able to space your illustrations throughout your hub. I'm going to have to learn how to do that.

    • M Selvey, MSc profile image

      M Selvey, MSc 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Interesting Santa facts! And, wow, it is amazing how stories and traditions can be pieced together from bits of factual people and events and woven together. Great research and enjoyable writing!

    • Super Gay profile image

      Super Gay 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the interesting read. It's unsettling how a big corporation can dominate a figure so associated with Christmas.

    • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

      Jesse James 

      7 years ago from Crooked Letter State

      Thanks for all the comments guys. I'm glad ya'll enjoyed.

    • libby101a profile image

      libby101a 

      7 years ago from KY

      DANG and I was hoping Santa was gonna bring me something nice for Christmas this year! I'm disappointed now!

      Jesse You destroyed my dream of Santa being real... now how you gonna fix that?

      BTW: How's your leg healing?

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      7 years ago

      very good information..I like to learn new things .=)

    • tmbridgeland profile image

      tmbridgeland 

      7 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      I visited the tomb of 'Santa Claus' in Bari, Italy. Big, solid silver thing, in a really impressive church. The story they told in the tourist literature was that pirates from Bari stole the body and brought it home.

    • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

      Jesse James 

      7 years ago from Crooked Letter State

      Don't you wish he was real. Imagine going to the North Pole. It's great to have a dream.

    • IvoryMelodies profile image

      IvoryMelodies 

      7 years ago

      Learned lots of things I previously did not know. Thank you for the great info, and congrats on the Hubnuggets nomination!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Oh no! Santa is... a fake? Hu hu hu

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. This is for real...check it out: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/HubNuggets-in-... hehehhe

      Love from ripple-whitequeen and the Hubnuggets Team :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Woot... he's not real? You're kidding. Nothing like taking the wind out of my sails.

      great hub

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Dorothee-Gy profile image

      Dorothee-Gy 

      7 years ago from near Frankfurt/M., Germany

      Thanks for this hub. I knew that the red color thing was an invention of Coca Cola, but it is very interesting to read the rest of the story, too...

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Excellent hub. I didn't know Coca Cola has history with Santa Claus - not sure I like that!

    • lcbenefield profile image

      lcbenefield 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Interesting. Thought provoking. Very Informative. Thanks. Good research.

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