We know him as a chubby guy from the North Pole. But the real Saint Nick was a slim Mediterranean. YUP! I have been so curious about how Santa evolved and found the most interesting information on him through my research. I wanted to share it with you during this holiday season. I learned a lot, and hope you do about Saint Nicholas. A big thanks to Jamiyla Chisholm for the condensed version. No Ho, Ho, Ho’s here.
Saint Nicholas of Myra (in modern-day Turkey) is a bishop hailed for his generosity. He’s famous for having thrown a bag of gold through a window as dowries for three poor sisters. The day of his death, December 6, is still celebrated as Saint Nicholas Day in Armenia, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries.
17th to 18th CENTURIES
In the New World, the children of the English colonists encounter other immigrants and learn the Dutch tradition of setting out wooden shoes in which Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) leaves presents. They also hear of Christkindl, the female German gift-bearing angel, who brings gifts. The English youth mispronounce these names as “Santa Claus” and “Kris Kringle,” respectively.
The Santa narrative fills out (as does his belly): He commands a flying sleigh (Washington Irvings’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York), slides down chimneys (Clement Clarke Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas”), and monitors kids from the North Pole (Thomas Nast’s Harper’s Weekly cartoons). Newfound glee for jolly Saint nick leads to the first department-store Santa taking post at a shop in Philadelphia.
The US Postal Service provides an address for all those Christmas wish lists: “Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska.”
Coca-Cola solidifies Father Christmas’s iconic look, decking him out in its corporate colors-red and white-plus a big belt for an ad campaign.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command sets ups a “Santa cam” to track the jolly one’s Christmas Eve ride. Today there’s an app and a site (noradsanta.org)
The first Santacon, an overly festive bar crawl, takes place in San Francisco. Over the next two decades, more than 300 cities, from Atlanta to Zurich, host countless rowdy revelers getting their drink on while getting their Santa suit on.
Kids keep believing. In New York City alone, the number of letters to Santa that arrive at the post office annually is about half a million. If you want to preserve that innocence, be ready to change the channel when commercials come on with Santa Claus on every channel.