“Sleighing” the Truth about Santa

By: Shelby Kuzminski

Santa Claus is best known for his big red suit, flying reindeer, elves, and gift giving. Everyone looks forward to his visit once a year, but many do not know who exactly Santa Claus was or how he came to be. The Squire dug around and found some quite interesting tales and legends explaining the mystery behind the big guy.

The Santa everyone knows today was not exactly the same years ago when the concept of Santa first originated. Many countries and cultures have their special take on how Santa came to be. One legend from History.com explains that St. Nicholas was a monk who was born around 280 A.D. He was born in Patara, which is known today as Turkey. He gave his wealth away and ventured across the country to help the poor and sick. Over his life, he became known as the “protector of children and sailors.” One stand out story or legend from History.com says St. Nicholas saved three sisters who were being sold into slavery by their father. St. Nicholas became very praised and well known around the country.

Later on, Santa came to America at the end of the 18th century. According to History.com, the name Santa Clause originated from a Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas. Then in 1804, John Pintard handed out woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the New York Historical Society’s meeting. The engraving showed Santa filling stockings with toys and fruit hanging over a fireplace. Later in 1809, Washington Irving made the Sinter Klaas stories popular when he wrote his book, The History of New York. From this point, Santa Clause took off and began to evolve to what he is known as today.

Although, Santa Claus became famous from a Christmas poem titled, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which, according to History.com, was written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. He wrote the poem describing Santa’s visit on a Christmas night for his three daughters. At first, he was hesitant to publish his work due to the description of Santa. In the poem, it describes Santa as a “right jolly old elf.” In the poem, Santa was portrayed as a bigger man who had magic powers to let him go down chimneys. It also explained that Santa drove a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and left presents for the good boys and girls. The poem wasn’t the first depiction of Santa, one year before the poem was published a cartoonist named Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem giving a visual of Santa Claus. In fact, Thomas Nast is the one who gave Santa his bright red suit, workshop, elves, his North Pole home, and wife Mrs. Claus. These two men created and shaped the Santa Claus into what he is today.

It is difficult to actually determine where Santa came from originally because of so many stories, legends, and accounts of Santa Claus. History.com explains that in Germany and Sweden Santa was called Christkind or Kris Kringle and was believed to deliver presents to good kids. In Scandinavia, Santa is called Jultomten and delivers gifts in a sleigh pulled by goats. An English legend says that Father Christmas visits homes on Christmas Eve and fills each children’s stockings with candy and treats. In France, children leave their shoes outside so Père Noël can fill them with toys and treats. In all, there are many takes and tales of Santa and how he came to be.

In present day, families continue to celebrate Christmas and prepare for Santa’s visit in their own unique ways. The Squire interviewed Eisenhower junior, Phoebe Tower, to get her opinion of Santa Claus. Phoebe explained that in order to prepare for Santa she puts up the Christmas tree and bakes cookies to leave out as a snack for when he visits. One question she has for Santa is how he can possibly make it to each and every house in one night, a common question asked by children around the world. Phoebe is asking Santa for a dog this year because she wants one for  hunting. Following her family tradition, Phoebe leaves a note for Santa to express her gratitude for the presents she will receive.

Overall, cultures all over the world have their own take on Santa Claus. Santa is known as many different names and is a creation of many different legends explaining how he came to be. Regardless of the Santa tradition practiced, most can agree that the best part is the magical anticipation of the arrival of Santa and the gifts he brings.

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