Who Is Santa?

December 13, 2021
Santa's present poster

You will feel the season of Christmas when you see the image of Santa everywhere. But, do you really know who he is? Kids usually ask who Santa is. Let’s take a look at the origin and the history behind how his meaning evolved over the years. Here we have some information about Santa, his history, and the traditions behind the name. 

The brief history of Santa Claus

Santa Claus is the English name of the Dutch name for St. Nicholas Sinterklaas. Historically, he is known for his charity and generosity. The estimated period was around AD 280 in Patara, in 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 the family of Nicholas can trace their spiritual heritage to the Apostle Paul who passed by Pattara in 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 sufferings of the people. He then used his large inheritance in the service of God and the people. 

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

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

Over the years, different periods have their own rendition of how St. Nicholas looks like. In many instances, he is 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 St. Nicholas tradition

December 6 was originally celebrated by Christians in honor of St. Nicholas by giving gifts. The tradition developed over the years as St. Nicholas in his red robe and boots would visit good boys and girls on the night of December 5. 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 tradition that we know these days of Santa Claus was based on the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” that was written in 1823. 

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