How the legend of Santa came to be
December 25, 2016
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To this day, the legend of Santa Claus has helped us celebrate the joy of Christmas. But the modern day Santa has evolved through many centuries. The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was believed to be born in Patara around 280 A.D. St. Nicholas was known for traveling around the state and giving away his wealth and helping the poor. Nicholas’s popularity spread throughout Europe and by the Renaissance he was the most popular saint in Europe. He was known as the protector of children and sailors. People celebrated his death on December 6th, it was said that it was a lucky day to make large purchases or get married. St. Nicholas’s name was not brought into America’s popular culture until the late 18th century when a New York newspaper wrote a story about how Dutch families had been gathering to honor his death. The name Santa Claus evolved from Nicholas’s Dutch name, Sinter Klaas, which is still shortened from Sint Nikolaas. John Pintard, a New York Historical Society member handed out woodcuts of St. Nick to people of the society at an annual meeting back in 1804. The woodcuts were engravings of pictures of St. Nick with stockings full of toys over the fireplace. St. Nick’s popularity grew even more in 1809 when Washington Irving helped to popularize Sinter Klaas’s story when he referenced St. Nick as a patron Saint of New York. Sinter Klaas was described to have a blue three-cornered hat, red-waist coat, and yellow stockings. He could also be described as a man wearing a broad rimmed hat and a huge pair of Flemish trunk hose. In the 1820’s stores started to advertise Christmas shopping and by 1840’s newspapers started creating separate sections for the holidays. The sections in the newspaper would often include pictures of newly popular Santa Claus. It wasn’t before long that stores took advantage of the publicity of Santa Claus and called customers to see the “real” Santa Claus. Santa got his sleigh, reindeer, and ability to climb down a chimney all came from the poem “An account of a visit from St. Nicholas” written in 1822 by a man named Clement Clarke Moore. It wasn’t until 1881 when popular political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew the first modern-day Santa. Nast was the one who gave him the white beard, sack full of toys, his bright red suit with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife. Ever since then Santa has been bringing the Christmas cheer to all and from all of us here at Vandegrift Voice, Merry Christmas!