“His hair is white,
His suit is red,
He wears a hat to cover his head.
He laughs this way: Ho! Ho! Ho!
And drives the sleigh
through sleet and snow.”
Santa Claus or Father Christmas is a mythical character who is believed to bring presents to all the children at their doorsteps in the night of Christmas Eve. He is said to be a jolly old man wearing red clothes and carrying a bag loaded with toys for children. He rides a sleigh that is drawn by the reindeers from his home at the North Pole to different parts of the world!
The fable of Santa is believed to have come from a generous Bishop named Nicholas, who lived in Myra in Asia Minor (presently Turkey) in the 4th century. It is said that Nicholas was a kind-hearted man who always cared for the needy. He gave away all his personal wealth to the others. From the stories of Nicholas, this character of Santa was born.
Even the custom of hanging up stockings for Santa to keep the presents also started with Nicholas! There’s this story about a poor man who didn’t have money to get his daughters married. Nicholas being aware of this man’s problem secretly dropped a bag of gold, down the chimney one night. The bag fell into a stocking that was hung by the fire for drying! This was before the elder daughter’s marriage. This incident was repeated again before the second daughter’s marriage. Finally, before the third daughter’s marriage, the father hid by the chimney to find out the person who was giving him the gold!
Nicholas requested the man to not mention his name to anyone. Nicholas was a humble person and he didn’t seek any attention. So he chose to remain anonymous to any gift he gave to others! But people got the news about his kindness and whenever anyone received a secret gift, it was believed to be delivered by Nicholas! There are many instances where Nicholas helped and saved people. Because of his kindness and generosity, Nicholas was declared as a Saint.
In the United Kingdom, St. Nicholas was turned into ‘Father Christmas’. In France, he became ‘Père Nöel’. In countries like Austria and Germany, this character delivering presents to children was named ‘Christkind’. In the USA his name became ‘Kris Kingle’ but later the name ‘Santa Claus’ became more popular. Gradually all over the world, the name Santa Claus became famous.
Father Christmas of UK and Santa Claus of America has become the same person! Most children receive their gifts from Santa Claus on the night of Christmas Eve. But in some European countries, they receive their gifts on 5th December. Many European countries celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day on 6th December. Children leave shoes out on St. Nicholas Eve that is on 5th December with the expectation that those would be filled with sweets, the next morning!
There are stories about Santa and his whereabouts. He is said to stay in the extremely cold North Pole with his wife Mrs. Claus. Santa has a group of Elves who help him in his chores. Santa makes children’s toys throughout the year. His sleigh is drawn by eight friendly reindeers. Santa Claus plays the most important role in Christmas by bringing gifts to the children. The children also keep a bowl of cookies and a glass of milk as a refreshment for old Santa on the night of Christmas Eve!
Santa Claus has become a part of English rhymes, children’s stories and even Hollywood movies. Santa plays a lead role in movies such as Miracle on 34th Street(1947), Ernest Saves Christmas (1988), Elf (2003), The Polar Express (2004), Arthur Christmas(2011) and several more!
Thomas Nast made the first illustration of Santa Claus wearing an outfit of stars and stripes. This was published in the magazine, Harper’s Weekly in January 1863. This became popular and Santa was conceptualized. Nast drew Santa after doing some research on Santa’s historical information. The most famous drawing of Santa Claus by Nast was published in Harper’s Weekly on 1st January, 1881. Here Santa was seen standing with a big belly, smoking a cigar and carrying an arm full of toys.
Nast’s image became popular and later on several artists took this idea while drawing Santa Claus. The red-dressed, joyful Santa thus emerged! Coca Cola company further used Santa Claus in their advertisements and Father Christmas has now been introduced to everyone! The ‘Coke Santa’ has now become a part of Christmas celebrations.
Recently the concept of Santa Claus has been commercialized with leading brands using the image of Santa Claus during the Christmas season to increase their sale. Even Santa’s village has been created for anyone who would love the fantasy world! You can now visit Santa in any day of the year at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi in Finland. From meeting Santa’s reindeers to checking Santa’s post office, there are several attractions here! There are also safaris and excursions designed for visitors in this official hometown of Santa Claus!
Santa Claus has become a familiar person to children across the world. Santa is a part of our childhood and growing up. Needless to say, but the festival of Christmas has been made so popular by Santa himself! Even the adults find a little entertainment from this mythical personality. Above all, Santa Claus teaches us the joy of giving! If he can travel from the North Pole to deliver Christmas gifts to the children, can we not give something to the others and make their day joyous? Because Christmas can truly be celebrated by giving unconditionally to others! The real Christmas lies in our hearts.
“I still believe in Santa Claus. He may not be the one that puts the presents under the tree, but his spirit works through us each time we give freely without expectation and each time we spread joy, love and light.” – Meadow Linn, Author.