Get to Know Santa!

December 21, 2023
Hello santa in mug holiday poster

The Christmas season is truly felt when you see Santa everywhere. But do you know who he is? Let’s look at the origin and the history behind how his meaning evolved over the years. Read on to learn more about Santa, its history, and the traditions behind the name. 

Who is Santa Claus

Santa Claus is the English name of the Dutch word for St. Nicholas Sinterklaas. Historically, he is known for his charity and generosity. The estimated period was around AD 280 in Patara, Asia Minor, when Nicholas was born. He then became a bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. He died around December AD 343. It was believed that Nicholas’s family could trace their spiritual heritage to the Apostle Paul, who passed by Pattara on one of his missionary journeys. 

The parents of Nicholas died while he was still a young boy. The loss drew him closer to God and made him sensitive to the people’s sufferings. He then used his large inheritance to serve God and the people. 

Though many stories have been told about Nicholas, one thing is sure. Wealth, kindness, and generosity are always part of those stories. After his death on December 6, a gift-giving tradition began in his honor. The date is still observed and celebrated in many countries as St. Nicholas Day. 

In Germany, kids were taught that the Christ Child gave gifts. The name Kriss Kringle is the English form of “Christ Child.” Kriss Kringle was associated with St. Nicholas, St. Nick, Santa Claus, and Father Christmas in the United States. 

Over the years, different periods have renditions of St. Nicholas’s appearance. He is often depicted as a tall, thin, bearded cleric. The red suit and white beard are based on the vestments of the bishops worn by the Dutch Sinterklaas. Through the years, the image of Santa evolved, making him more friendly and adorable, especially to children. 

The tradition celebrating St. Nicholas

Christians initially celebrated December 6 in honor of St. Nicholas by giving gifts. The tradition developed over the years as St. Nicholas would visit good boys and girls on December 5 in his red robe and boots. For naughty kids, St. Nicholas is feared. In Germany, for instance, St. Nicholas is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, who threatened to eat naughty kids. In the Netherlands, the helper of St. Nicholas would tie bad kids in a sack. 

The tradition of Santa, stockings, and presents can be traced back to the Dutch and was brought to the New World. The image and practice we know of Santa Claus today were based on the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” written in 1823. 

Though the modern Santa Claus came from the figure surrounded by fantasy. His image can help us know and remember the honest St. Nicholas. He is a man who devoted his life to serving God and the people. 

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