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A Brief History Of Santa Claus

The history of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century in Turkey, when he was known as Saint Nicholas. He was much renowned for his generosity in giving gifts such as food and clothes to the poor and children. 

After Constantine created the “Council of Nicaea,” he honored Saint Nicolas with being the patron saint of children and sailors.

A Santa Claus Biography

The 16th century Dutch are what kept the legend of Saint Nicholas alive, and they are thought to be the first people to celebrate him.  The children of Holland would put their shoes by the fire in hopes for a gift from Saint Nicholas, who was known by the Dutch as “Sint Nikolaaas.”  Over time the name was also known as “Sinterklass,” and then it became what we all know him as, Santa Claus.

Clement C. Moore, in 1822, is thought to have created the closest Santa Claus biography to date, from what he was actually like, with the creation of the red suit, big belly, and jolly-bearded man, and where St. Nicholas is supposed to have lived in the stories of Santa Claus and the north pole.  However, in Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” he depicts Santa Claus as very small and adds Norse beliefs for the reindeer and elves.

Another Santa Claus biography states that the vintage Santa Claus of earlier times was rather shy, but still wished to help the children of his hometown.  One night he went up onto a roof and dropped a purse filled with money.  The purse landed in a stocking that was being hung to dry.  The stories we know today of Santa Claus coming down the chimney were born on that night with the actions of the vintage Santa Claus, St. Nicholas.  The vintage Santa Claus is much like the one told for generations, except for one difference, St. Nicholas with all his many names, never lived in the North Pole.

Santa Claus Gains Popularity

The vintage Santa Claus figure first became popular with the Dutch people in the 16th century.  Santa only became more widely known and popular in the 19th century in the Americas.  The poem and traditional Santa Claus biography comes from Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, whichwas published in the New York Sentinel newspaper in 1823, on December 23.  Today, Santa Claus, North Pole, and reindeer are all important parts of the Christmas holiday.

Changing Views of Santa

During the beginning history of Santa Claus, Santa underwent many styles and colors.  The common red suite reached popularity when he was pictured in a card in 1885.  In 1863 Thomas Nast, a cartoonist of the 19th century, captured and immortalized Santa Clause with a picture issued in Harper’s Weekly on January 3, 1863.

Another entry into the Santa Claus biography, and part of the explanation of how he became more popular over the years, was found in a 1920 children’s book called The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum.  This book suggested that the deer didn’t fly but rather they were able to leap gigantic miles and established that Santa was an immortal being.  The book then stated that Santa learned of the misery and the poor people of the world and wanted to bring them happiness. 

Santa as He is Found Today

The vintage Santa Claus was lost when the red suit was in essence “cemented” in Haddon Sundblom’s creation for the Coca-Cola™ cans as part of the company’s advertising campaign.  However, the Coca-Cola Company™ was not the first soda drink to use Santa Claus for advertising techniques.  White Rock Beverages™ pictured Santa on their water bottles in 1915 and again in 1923 for their ginger ale bottles.

Companies like the Salvation Army still advertise the new and vintage Santa Claus when Christmas comes along.  They do this through fundraising and charity campaigns across the world.  Many of these companies popularized Santa Claus because it was another way for Christians to tell their story to the world, even though some Christians are against the Santa Clause figure.  They also did this as a way to remember the real St. Nicholas’s deeds of generosity, love for children, and his robin hood-like style, just without the stealing.  Santa now is and forever will be one of the most known representations of Christmas.

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Mrs. Claus, the North Pole and the Reindeer

Everyone knows that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole and works with elves, and everyone knows that sometime in the wee morning hours of the morning of December 25, Santa Claus is coming to town, but behind every great man there is a woman. 

The woman is Mrs. Santa Claus, the pillar behind the legend.  Just who is Mrs. Santa Claus?  Where did she come from and what does she do?

Origin of Mrs. Claus

While Harper’s New Monthly Magazine made mention of Santa going on a date in its March 1881 issue, it was Katherine Lee Bates who felt that Santa must have a wife who helps him.  The writer of “America the Beautiful,” Katherine published a poem called “Goody Santa Claus, A Sleigh Ride.”  A picture of Mrs. Claus appeared by her poem.  Through the years the poem circulated and the idea of Mrs. Claus as Santa’s wife began to be popular.

Mrs. Claus in Song

Mrs. Claus’ popularity picked up in 1956 when George Melachrino wrote a song called “Mrs. Santa Claus.”  It tells the story of what Mrs. Claus does at the North Pole.  The baking and preparation she does for Santa and his elves gave her more substance and helped make her a star in her own right. 

Mrs. Claus:  TV and Movie Star

Television and movies added dimension to Mrs. Santa Claus.  She appeared in several Rankin/Bass, Christmas specials.  In Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Mrs. Claus (as Jessica the school teacher) and Kris Kringle meet and together help to deliver toys.  While doing so, they fall in love and get married.  In The Year Without a Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus works to show Santa that there is a Christmas Spirit left in the world.  In the1996 television show Mrs. Santa Claus, Angela Lansbury leaves Santa and works for women and children’s rights.  Mrs. Claus’ movie credits include The Santa Claus and The Santa Claus 2.

Mrs. Claus Today

Today, Mrs. Claus is a popular figure at Christmas who now appears in malls across the world with her husband.  She not only makes cookies; she is the person who helps organize the lists and toys for Santa, as well as helping her husband prepare for his big Christmas sleigh ride.  She is an icon in her own right.

Santa and His Reindeer

Santa’s 8 tiny reindeer live at the North Pole along with Santa Claus, Mrs. Santa Claus, and the elves.  They have a very important job each Christmas, for without the reindeer, Santa Claus isn’t coming to town.  However, Santa didn’t always have these helpful creatures to help him bring toys to boys and girls each Christmas.

The Reindeers’ Origin

When St. Nicholas first began to appear in old European lore, he traveled with a goat like creature that not only helped deliver toys, but also punished naughty kids.  Over the years, customs changed as a more puritan way of life was accepted.  A poem by William Gentry mentioned Santa being pulled by flying reindeer.  However the actual names of the reindeer were first printed in a poem in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel called “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”  Controversy surrounds who exactly wrote the poem, but the poem and the names of the 8 tiny reindeer remain a favorite poem that is read each Christmas.

The Reindeer and the North Pole

People over time began to wonder just where the reindeer would graze, given that the North Pole is ice.  In 1925, newspapers revealed that the flying reindeer in fact lived in Finnish Lapland.  However, popular legend still tells of the reindeer living with Santa Claus and Mrs. Santa Claus at the North Pole.  The movie “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” further showed how the reindeer lived with Santa.

The 8 Reindeer and The Others

The order of the 8 tiny reindeer from the front to the back is:  Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.  Each reindeer has his or her own personality and function in the group.  In 1939, Robert L. May, a clerk for Montgomery Ward, created a poem about a reindeer named Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Rudolph quickly became a loved symbol of Christmas.  Other reindeer were talked about over the years in poems, songs, and movies.

Even though other reindeer have been added to the 8 tiny reindeer over the years, the original 8 are never forgotten.  Their story is told and re-printed every year.  As legend says, without those 8 tiny reindeer, boys and girls around the world would not get their gifts from Santa Claus.

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