"You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why-Santa Claus is coming to town". Saint Nicholas, popularly known as Santa Claus, is a popular gift-bearing figure that most of us come across during the time of Christmas. Since 19th century, Santa is represented as an old man with a flowing white beard, red coat and white cuffed trousers with black boots and a black leather belt with a big buckle in front. Legend has it that Santa lives in the North Pole with his elves and reindeers where he has a gifts workshop. It is believed that this is where presents for well-behaved children are manufactured. The jute bag carried by him is believed to be loaded with goodies and toys for children, which come from this renowned workshop. It is a popular belief that Santa makes a list of all the children around the world and sorts them into naughty and nice, based on their behavior all through the year. He then rewards the good ones and either punishes the naughty ones or just omits them from his gifts list, thus urging children to be good and well behaved round the year. This article recapitulates the origin, traditions and history of Santa Claus.
Origin And Appearance
The story of Santa Clause traces back to Saint Nicholas and his kind deeds in his city. Nicholas is believed to have been born to a wealthy Christian family in Myra, which is now in modern Turkey. He was a very kind person and his kindness and benevolence made him so popular that he soon became the Bishop of Myra. To ensure that the town folk were happy, he used to travel at night, listening to his people's stories. During one such visit, he passed by a poor family's house and overheard the conversation between the family members. They were complaining about their misfortunes and were planning to sell all three of their daughters as slaves or prostitutes. Nicholas could not stand their plight and threw three purses of gold, enough to get all three of their daughters married. It is believed that he threw this money through the chimney of their house.
Different cultures portray Santa in different ways. The Dutch called the Santa Claus as 'Sinterklaas' who had a helper called Black Peter. They described Sinterklaas as a serious, elderly man with white hair and a long beard who wore a red cape and wore a mitre. There were the Scandinavian folks, who believed and described a character called "Tomte". He is shown as a man dressed in gray clothes and a red hat. This character was obviously inspired by Santa Claus.
However, since the 19th century, Santa was represented as an old man dressed in red coat, white cuffed trousers with a white beard, black boots and black leather belt. He is known for his happy-go-lucky attitude. Santa Claus is shown carrying a jute bag loaded with goodies for children. These were once again popularized in 1863 by a famous caricature artist, Thomas Nast, in a weekly paper called "Harper's weekly". It was reported in the weekly paper in 1866- a combination of drawings or cartoons that were titled "Santa Claus and His Works" by Thomas Nast, which included a subtitle "Santa Clausville, N.P". This was the time when the whole story about Santa's residence and Santa's gift workshop started.
Santa Claus In Media
By the 20th century, Santa Claus had become so popular that this particular character was being used by beverage companies to 'up' their sales during Christmas. Apart from cola companies, many charity organizations made their volunteers dress up as Santa Claus to raise fund to help the poor during Christmas. It was in 1937 that an American actor, by the name Charles W Howard, represented Santa Claus in departmental stores and parades by dressing up like the character.
Of late, there are many comic strips, advertisements, TV commercials that depict Santa Claus as a jolly character and also portray his mischievous side-kicks (elves) playing pranks at the toy factory.
The chimney tradition is one of the most popular traditions associated with Santa Claus. History has it that Saint Nicholas popularly known as Santa Claus tossed coins through a window and when the window was locked, he tossed them through the chimney. Jan Steen's painting "The Fest of Saint Nicholas" depicted some children and adults looking up the chimney while the other children played with their toys. The whole chimney tradition was popularized by Moore's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas", where Moore described Santa Claus as a joyous elf.
'Letters to Santa' is another popular tradition followed by many children all over the world. Children write a wish list, which usually contains various toys that they would want to own and play with. In fact, Canada has a special postal code i.e., Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0.
Santa Claus is one of the most important characters during Christmas who has many legends associated with him. He is a legendary Christmas character who has evolved through time and has become an integral part of Christmas, thus, adding more joy to the festival.
Any Christmas celebration is incomplete without Santa Claus. Read through the below article to know about the origin, appearance and legend associated with this character.