A short history of Santa Claus
As featured on Sloto Magazine
The portly jolly white-bearded man known today as Santa Claus has evolved in very interesting ways throughout history. Today we can find him in most shopping centers around Xmas time. A few hundred years ago, you’ll be lucky to find an old portrait in a cathedral of the man that inspired the modern day Santa Claus.
It starts with St. Nicholas of Myra, a bishop that lived in the 4th century AD in the Byzantine Empire in modern day Turkey. He was renowned for gift-giving and for leaving gifts in stockings. He was honored in Britain as the Father of Christmas.
The Dutch, on the other hand, based their legendary figure Sinterklaas on St. Nicholas and made him the patron of children. Sinterklaas was often depicted with a long white beard and a red cape over his bishop attire.
Did you know the Santa Claus you know was born in 1823?
The Santa Claus we know today started to emerge in the 19th century. A famous American Professor, Clement Clarke Moore, published in 1823 a Christmas poem titled A Visit from St. Nicholas or, better known as, The Night before Christmas.
With this poem he nearly single-handedly created the modern American vision of Santa Claus. He made Santa an elf rather than a priest, gave him a fur coat and a pipe! On his back he carried a sack full of toys for the children. Moore also gave him a sleigh and 8 reindeer that could fly, each with their own name.
Here enters Thomas Nast, a caricaturist from New York. He published a series of Christmas cartoons in Harper’s Weekly (a leading magazine of that time). Nast transformed Moore’s Santa elf by making taller. He gave him a home in the North Pole and made him read a Naughty or Nice list.
Today Santa Claus is a recognizable figure worldwide, part and parcel of the Christmas tradition.
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