For children across the world, the most exciting part of Christmas is discovering wrapped presents tucked under the Christmas tree and candies hidden in stockings.
Kids are often told that the gifts were left by Santa Claus who travels around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeers, to distribute gifts to each child's house.
However, despite all the make-believe, what many probably don't know is that the legend of Santa Claus was inspired by a real man.
How did the legend of Santa Claus come into being?
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named St. Nicholas who was born in Turkey around 280 AD. St. Nicholas anonymously gave gifts by paying the dowries of impoverished girls and handing out treats and coins to children by often leaving them in their shoes at night. Because of his deeds, he became known as the protector of children.
Nicholas’s death on December 6 is now commemorated as his feast day. His alleged remains were removed from his church at Myra in 1087 to Bari, Italy. The site subsequently became a popular destination for pilgrims.
Saint Nicholas came to be known as Santa Claus because of his Dutch nickname, Sintar Klaas.
When the Dutch settled in what is now New York City during the 17th century, they brought their legend of Sinterklaas and the tradition of leaving presents for children on the eve of December 6.
However, in early America, Christmas wasn't much like the modern holiday, but that changed in the 19th century thanks to a series of poets and writers who strove to make Christmas a family celebration—by reviving and remaking St. Nicholas.
According to the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” written by Clement Moore in 1823 Santa is described as a jolly old elf with cheeks like roses, his nose like a cherry and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. In 1870, Thomas Nast, a very real and now historical newspaper artist, after been highly inspired by Clement’s poem painted the very first portrait of the present-day Santa Claus.
Due to works like these, Sinterklaas went from a saintly bishop to the white-bearded, red-capped Santa Claus, that we recognize today.
Different names across the world
Santa Claus is known by different names around the world: In the United States and Canada, he is called Santa Claus, China, he is Shengdan Laoren, England, his name is Father Christmas, France, he’s known as Pere Noel, in Germany, children get presents from Christkind (Christkindl in Austria and South Germany), the Christ Child.
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