A version of Santa Claus appears in European folklore that dates back to the third century. But the fur trimmed Santa we know and love today has evolved over time.
Clement Clarke Moore wrote a famous Christmas poem in 1823 that helped popularize Santa. Thomas Nast’s illustrations in Harper’s Weekly after the Civil War further shaped Santa’s image.
Santa Claus is the mythological figure who gives gifts to good children at Christmas time and punishes the bad ones with coal or sticks. He lives in the North Pole and has magical elves to help him make the toys. He also has eight to ten reindeer who pull his sleigh. His benevolence has led to his being associated with charity and philanthropy, and volunteers dressed as him often raise money for families in need at Christmas time.
Many of the elements of Santa’s character can be traced back to Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Greek bishop who was known for his generosity. One of the most famous stories involves him anonymously throwing dowry money into the house of three impoverished sisters. His feast day is December 6 and he has since become the patron saint of children. Saint Nicholas has also been credited with numerous miracles, and his reputation for generosity inspired the practice of leaving presents for children on their beds on Christmas Eve. This led to the development of the modern Santa Claus tradition.
The Dutch colonists who settled in what is now New York City brought with them the custom of Sinterklaas, and this merged with Saint Nicholas legends to create the rent a Santa Claus we know today. The 19th century poem known as The Night Before Christmas was another major influence in transforming the jolly Saint Nick into the portly, white-bearded Santa we recognize today.
Artists such as Haddon Sundblom based their depictions of Santa on the description in The Night Before Christmas. The image of Santa as a jolly old man, with spectacles, wearing a long red coat and white fur-cuffed hat and belt, carrying a bag full of gifts and laughing in a way that sounds like “ho ho ho” has been maintained in America since the early 20th century through family Christmas traditions, children’s books, music, radio, television and films, and countless commercial promotions.
Other modern additions to the story of Santa Claus include Rudolph, the lead reindeer with a glowing red nose, which was created in 1939 by Robert L. May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward department stores. And he’s been immortalized in song by Gene Autry. Many artists have depicted him as a jolly old man with spectacles and a beard and carrying a bag of gifts for children. He is often accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Claus, and they live in a workshop at the North Pole. He makes a list of all the children of the world and delivers gifts to them, and punishes the bad ones with coal and sticks. This has made him a very popular figure in the United States and around the world.
For many, Santa Claus is a symbol of giving and love. He is the figure who gives gifts to all who are good and leaves a lump of coal for those who are bad. Santa is also a symbol of Christmas, which for Christians, is the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
The modern image of Santa Claus combines elements of church history and folklore surrounding Saint Nicholas, the English figure of Father Christmas, and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas. He is a chubby man dressed in red with a long white beard who lives at the North Pole and brings presents to all good children on Christmas Eve. He is accompanied by flying reindeer that pull his sleigh.
During the middle ages, people longed for one figure to represent the spirit of generosity and charity that was prevalent during this time of year. They had several religious figures who embodied this, including Saint Nicholas, but wanted something that was more tangible and concrete. This led to the creation of the Santa Claus we know today.
The current representation of Santa Claus is largely due to American artist Thomas Nast, who created the iconic images in Harper’s Weekly. His depiction of Santa is based on the description in the famous poem, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” first published in 1823. Later, American illustrators Norman Rockwell and Joseph Christian Leyendecker helped to further solidify the modern Santa Claus image with their illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell’s Santas are lifelike and relatable, while Leyendecker’s depictions of Santa are more jovial and comical.
Another aspect of the Santa Claus image that has been adapted and expanded on is his workshop at the North Pole. This workshop is shown with a team of elves working to make toys and other items for Christmas. The elf-like characters are also given individual names, which helps to further reinforce the idea that Santa is a benevolent figure who loves all of his creatures.
In addition to his workshop, a Christmas tree is also present at the North Pole. This tree serves as a reminder that Santa is the giver of all good things. He is the only one who knows if you have been good or bad, and thus, he is the only one who can fill your stockings.
The color of Santa’s clothes is also symbolic, as it is believed that the red and white colors are a nod to the Christmas rose, which is a flower with a deep association with the Virgin Mary and Christ. The red is said to symbolize Christ’s blood and the white is a nod to His purity.