Who is Santa Claus?

We all know the gift-giving guy in red is based on Saint Nicholas, but how did he get from early Christian bishop to your local mall? Here are some facts about the popular holiday icon.

Still get a coin in the bottom of your stocking?
This isn’t just a cheesy way to give you pocket change. According to the original myth of Saint Nicholas, the famous Bishop used to leave coins in the shoes of children.

What’s in a name?
In the Netherlands Saint Nicholas is also know as Sinterklaas, a mythical man who brings treats to good children. Over the years Western tradition has changed this name to Santa Claus.

Christmas come early
Western culture combines Saint Nicholas’ generosity with Christmas, but many European nations still celebrate Saint Nicholas‘ name day on Dec. 6., the day when sweets and gifts were left for good girls and boys.

What’s that burning smell?
Saint Nicholas traditionally arrived on horseback and entered through the front door, until the 1823 publishing of ‘Twas a Night Before Christmas. The popular story had Saint Nick heading down the chimney and travelling by reindeer-led sleigh.

Did he check in at Ellis Island?
Although Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (modern-day Turkey) in the second century, the Western version of Santa Claus came by way of Amsterdam to New York City. Once New Amsterdam, the iconic landing place saw the legend of Saint Nicholas arrive with immigrants from the Netherlands.

Jolly old mad men
Traditionally garbed in a bishop’s cape, Santa Claus got a makeover in 1931. The modern version of the jolly, red-clad man first appeared in Coca-Cola’s Christmas ad campaign.

By any other name
In China, Santa Claus is known as Shengdan Laoren, in England — Father Christmas, while in France he is Pere Noel. Some Latin countries call him El Niesus and in some he is called Papa Noel. During the communist years of Russia, he was known as Father Frost.
Some countries, including Germany say that the baby Jesus delivers the gifts instead of Santa.

A wise man once said…
“Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa?”
—Bart Simpson

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