The Legend that is ME
Hi boys and girls.
I was talking with Juggles the other day about adding fresh content here on my website.
I've mentioned my Elf Juggles recently, right, she’s my Director of Public Relations. Anyways, she mentioned that it may be helpful if we shared some information regarding Santa Lore, You know, the myth and legend surrounding ME.
You know who I am, right? Santa Claus — otherwise known as Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle — there's a long history steeped in Christmas myth and legend regarding my story.
Sometimes I even have difficulty myself discerning fact from fiction.
Today, I'm mostly known of as the jolly man in red who brings toys to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve.
But, did you know that my story stretches all the way back to the 3rd century, when my grand father a hundred times removed, Saint Nicholas walked the earth and eventually became known as the patron saint of children.
You can find out more about my history, from the earliest origins to the shopping mall Santas of today, and discover how two New Yorkers – Clement Moore and Thomas Nast – were major influences on how modern folk view me to this very day has spread throughout the history books and even the internet.
Actually, though my story has continued to grow over the the past several hundreds of years, but my origin story can be traced back to a bishop and Saint named Nicholas.
Nicholas was born around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey.
Nicholas was actually my Great-grandfather a hundred times removed, and much admired for his love of God and kindness. Nicholas became the subject of many stories and legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.
One of the best-known St. Nicholas stories is the time he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.
Over the course of the past, nearly two thousand years, Grandpa's popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors.
His story became so well known, that the Church celebrated a feast day in his honor, on the anniversary of his death, December 6.
This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.
Did you know? The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
I actually made my first made inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of my Grandpa's death.
My identity as Santa Claus evolved from my Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas).
In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of me as St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background of the engravings contained now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace.
In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize me in the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York city in his book, The History of New York. As my prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a “rascal” with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a “huge pair of Flemish trunk hose.”
Throughout the years, Gift-giving has mainly centered around children. This has been an important part of the Christmas celebrations since the holiday’s rejuvenation in the early 19th century when stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820.
By the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of me as the newly-popular Santa Claus.
In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size model of myself as a Santa Claus. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a “live” Santa Claus.
In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.
Perhaps the most iconic department store image of me as Santa was as Kris Kringle in the 1947 Santa Claus movie “Miracle on 34 Street.” In this classic movie, a young Natalie Wood played a little girl who believes Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn, who actually won an Oscar for the role) when he says he is the real Santa Claus.
The Macy’s Santa has appeared at almost every Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since it began in1924, and fans of all ages still line up to meet the Macy’s Santa in New York City and at stores around the country, where children can take pictures on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want for Christmas.
Who doesn’t know the classic story ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas?
This story was penned in 1822, by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister. Moore wrote this Christmas poem for his three daughters and it was entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” which, of course, is more popularly known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Moore’s poem, which he was initially hesitant to publish due to the frivolous nature of its subject, is largely responsible for our modern image of myself as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere twitch of my nose and a nod of my head!
Although some of Moore’s imagery of me was probably borrowed from other sources, his poem helped popularize my now-familiar image as the Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer to leave presents for deserving children. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” re-created me as a new and immediately popular American icon.
In 1881, the political cartoonist Thomas Nast, drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches the modern image of me as Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted me as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who portrayed me as Santa with a bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves and even my wife, Mrs. Claus
In the 18th-century, America’s vision of me, Santa Claus, was not the only as St. Nicholas, but also as the inspired gift-giver who makes his appearance at Christmastime.
There are also similar figures and Christmas traditions all around the world, though not all of them center around me...
Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning “Christ child,” Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions.
In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats.
English legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children’s stockings with holiday treats.
Père Noël is responsible for filling the shoes of French children.
In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn’t find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven.
In Italy, a similar story exists about a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.
Here, in the United States, I'm still, more often than not, depicted as flying from home to home on Christmas Eve to deliver toys to children. In this imagery, I’m flying in my magical sleigh led by my reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph.
It is told that I enter each home through the chimney, which is why empty Christmas stockings — traditionally empty socks, now often dedicated stockings made for the occasion—are “hung by the Chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas (me) soon would be there,” as Clement Clarke Moore wrote in his famous poem. Stockings can be filled with candy canes, fruits, and other treats or small toys.
I and why wife, Mrs. Claus, are said to call the North Pole our home, and many children write letters to Santa and track Santa’s progress around the world on Christmas Eve. Children often leave cookies and milk for mw and carrots for my reindeer on Christmas Eve. It is also a popular legend that I keep a “naughty” and “nice” list to determine who deserves gifts on Christmas morning, and parents often invoke these lists as a way to ensure their children are on their best behavior. The lists are immortalized in the 1934 Christmas song “Santa Claus is coming to Town”:
“He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!”
The Ninth Reindeer, Rudolph
Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.
In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, When Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn’t be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh by the light of his red nose. Rudolph’s message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular.
Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Poor me, no royalties.
Several years later, one of May’s friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph’s story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences every year since 1964.
Fact, or fiction, myth or legend, the bottom line is that in every way that matters, Santa Claus remains a reality in our time. You see, I am he!
These days I’m still in the present business, and, you can still write me letters. My elves are continually active in the workshop. I’m still checking my list and checking it twice — are you naughty or nice?
Do you remember what children on the naughty list receive?
It’s coal, of course. Coal is like a rock, except that it burns.
A long time ago many families would burn coal in their stoves to cook and to keep their homes warm during the cold winter months.
Initially, giving coal was actually a reminder to naughty children to do something nice and helpful for others. Though, I’m not so sure the message is so clear in this day and age.
Thanks to modern technology you can keep in touch with me on my website, youtube, instagram and many via , and other social media options — you can even send me an email…
Keep on being nice, and stay on the list…