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Rediscovering Santa Claus
Who is Santa Claus?
He’s the old fat-bearded man from the North Pole who used to give gifts to good children all over the world. Many children believe that with the help of his eight reindeers headed by Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, Santa Claus travel around the world during Christmas season carrying and giving gifts by passing in and out the chimney of every house then put the gift inside the socks displayed by the children and under the Christmas tree.
This is also my description of Santa Claus when I was a child. At present, I dug deeper to share with you authentic information about this old man who became a legendary figure of Christmas aside from Jesus Christ, the reason why we celebrate the holiday season on December.
The legendary Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop of Myra, which is now in Turkey. Although very few facts exist about his life, legends continue to spread in many countries around the world. Saint Nicholas was said to have performed miracles, shown great courage in the face of religious persecution, and done good deeds.
Over the centuries, he became one of the most admired of all saints, with churches named for him in Asia, Europe and eventually America. Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of Russia and the subject of many medieval plays; even artists love to depict him too. His popularity rose even more when in 1087 Italian traders brought what they claimed were his bones to Bari, in southern Italy, and the city became crowded with pilgrims.
What about his popular act of giving gifts to children? Well. We all know that some legends become greater than their source-but are nonetheless founded on genuine acts of generosity and good will.
Coming to America
Saint Nicholas’ popularity arrived in America with the Dutch settlers who founded a city called New Amsterdam. They call him “Sinter-Klass”-Santa Claus-and honored him on his feast day, December 6. During those times, Santa Claus wore a bishop’s robe and riding on a donkey, just as he had in the Netherlands, giving gifts for well-behaved children.
When the English took over in 1664 and renamed the city New York, they called him back Saint Nicholas. Even the song, “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” was our favorite Christmas song taught by out elementary teachers
The Knickerbocker’s History of New York by Washington Irving was published in 1809. Irving described Santa Claus as an old man in dark robes on a flying horse. In 1821, through the poem “The Children’s Friend”, the horse was replaced by a reindeer. But the most appealing changes were brought by a professor at General Theological Seminary, Clement Moore, who in 1823 made a very memorable poem for his children. At houseguest sent it to a newspaper and when printed it became an overnight sensation. A Visit From St. Nicholas-“Twas the night before Christmas…”-portrayed Saint Nick we used to envision. Moore portrayed Santa Claus as round-bellied and white bearded old man full of merriment, Harper’s Weekly – Santa, lolling on a snow-capped chimney smoking a long –stemmed pipe. Nast established Santa’s home at the North Pole and gave him elves to do his manufacturing.
As the end of the century approached, a young Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun to ask if there really was a Santa Claus, and the editors answered with a resounding “yes” in an editorial that is still reprinted in Christmas Eve newspapers around America.
As we give Santa Claus a secular makeover, dressed him up in a bright red suit and transformed him into a jolly old man, the gifts he brings down the chimney to good children still echo God’s gift to us all of his only son. That's the very important gift that counts for all time and eternity.