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A History of Santa

December Holidays
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The origins of the Santa Claus tradition go far back in European history. Originally, Santa was a traditional Dutch figure called Saint Nicolas, who turned into Santa Claus in the American version of the tale. The name "Santa Claus" first appeared in America in 1773 in the press, and in 1821, it appeared in a book as an anonymous poem called "Old Santeclaus," which depicted an old man with a reindeer sleigh handing out gifts to children. The poem "The Night Before Christmas" (originally titled "A Visit from St. Nicholas," was published in 1823, and the origins of the Santa story were complete. The poem included references to Santa's sleigh, named his reindeer, and said he was a "right jolly old elf."

Thomas Nast's Santa

In 1863, American artist Thomas Nast created an image of Santa that became the persona of the character. Nast drew a picture of Santa in 1863 that appeared in "Harper's Weekly" magazine. It portrayed Santa living at the North Pole in snow and ice, and he was traditionally a large, heavyset person with a beard, as Nast portrayed him. Our modern version of Santa is personified by the illustration appearing in a Coca-Cola Company ad from the 1930s. The artist, Haddon Sundblom, portrayed Santa in his traditional red suit, trimmed with white fur, with a heavy white beard, red cheeks, and a broad smile. Because Santa is a benevolent character, charities, such as the Salvation Army, dressed their volunteer fundraisers as Santa to help in their fundraising, and many still use the Santa character today to bring in more funds.

Other Santa Traditions

As the story of Santa Claus expanded, other traditions became associated with him, such as his using a chimney to access houses, and that elves worked in Santa's workshop all year creating the toys he would deliver in the wee hours of Christmas morning. Santa found a wife after American authors wrote about Mrs. Claus in the late 19th century. Today, Santa is a kindly old man who listens to children and their wishes during the holidays in malls across America. He still remains extremely popular in modern culture, and millions of children around the world go to sleep on Christmas Eve with visions of Santa and his reindeer in their dreams.

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