When we’re asked to describe Santa Claus, a similar image likely comes to mind for all of us: round belly, red suit, white beard, rosy cheeks, and a love for delivering presents.
But the modern-day Santa we all know and love hasn’t always appeared the same way throughout history.
In fact, it’s understood that Santa Claus is the merging of two historical figures to create a new one.
Let’s dive into the history of Santa Claus!
The Origins of Santa Claus
The spirit behind Santa’s passion for gift-giving likely derives from Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop. Nicholas was well-known for his generosity and selflessness, and his emphasis on helping the poor became infamous. There was even one occasion where he raised money for several young women so they could have dowries.
December 6 was later named after the saint. Following his death, children were bestowed gifts on the eve of the 6th. This was to honour his memory and the legacy of generosity that he built for himself.
Meanwhile, the imagery of Santa Claus is most likely drawn from this particular predecessor.
Father Christmas can be dated as far back as 16th century England when King Henry VIII still reigned. He was often depicted as a large man dressed in green or red robes and was the personification of Christmas cheer.
Perhaps the most memorable illustration of Father Christmas can be found in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, in which he is dressed in a green robe lined with fur and sprinkles the essence of Christmas on whomever he passes.
It was during this time that Christmas Day was moved to December 25. England no longer celebrated the feast day of Saint Nicholas on December 6, so the celebration was moved.
There are several additional historical figures from across Europe that are believed to have influenced the makeup of our current-day Santa Claus. However, Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas are the most notable. They informed the Christmas icon into what he is today and helped create a recognizable symbol throughout the world.
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