Origins of ordinary things: Santa Claus

One of the most famous Christmas traditions around the world is of a mythical bearded man named Santa Claus who, having made a list of children who were well-behaved during the year, brings them gifts.

The story of Santa Claus starts with a monk named St. Nicholas who is believed to have been born around 280 A.D. in modern day Turkey. According to History, a knowledge platform, St. Nicholas performed many acts of kindness. The most famous act is said to be one where he provided three sisters with dowry so that they could get married instead of being sold into slavery by their needy father.

According to Why Christmas, a Christian website, having heard of the sisters’ dilemma one night St. Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold in their chimney so that the first daughter could get married. The bag coincidentally fell into a stocking which had been hung by the fire to dry. He repeated the same act for all three sisters and by this time, their father was determined to find out the person behind the act of kindness. After news about this spread, anyone who received a secret gift assumed that it was from St. Nicholas.

Through the centuries and long after his death, St. Nicholas remained popular, especially in Holland. According to How Stuff Works, an educational platform, the Dutch, who in their language call him Sint Nikolaas shortened it to Sinter Klaas. Santa Claus is phonetic derivation of Sinter Klaas.

When the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas began to take shape during the 1820s, newspapers in America started to publish images of Santa Claus. During this time, Clementine Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, published a poem he had written for his three daughters titled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore’s poem brought into existence the idea of a bearded man with a round belly who travelled on a sleigh and could go down and up a chimney to leave presents for good children. This is according to information website Ancient Origins. 

In 1863, Thomas Nast, an American political cartoonist, then used Moore’s poem as a reference to draw an animated image of Santa Claus as is known today. This is according to Wikipedia, an encyclopedia.

The Christmas figure inspired by St. Nicholas was popularly known as Father Christmas in England and that’s the name that was adopted in English colonies. There are many other variations of Santa Claus around the world.

Nicholas wasn’t always a Saint but was named so because of his good deeds. He is celebrated every December 6 around the world. This is according to National Geographic, an organisation whose work revolves around geography, cartography and exploration.