What’s the Deal With Santa?


When we think of Christmas we think about Christmas Stockings, huge meals, gifts, shops advertising Christmas specials, and of course Santa Claus. What does Santa Claus have to do with Christmas and why do we give gifts? This article will explore the origins of Santa and some of our traditions.

 

Why do we Give Gifts at Christmas?

The gifts we give at Christmas are, as you might guess, related to the story of the birth of Jesus. The Magi, or Three Wise Men, gave three gifts, namely gold frankincense and myrrh. Those three gifts were the start of the gift giving tradition we all know and love.

 

Why Santa?

We all know the image of a jolly old fat man dressed in red with a big white beard that flies around the world and delivers presents down the chimney. Few of us know why though. So let’s have a look at the history of this beloved figure.

 

St. Nicholas 

St Nicholas

Image from the St. Nicholas Center

It is generally accepted that the character of Santa Claus is based on a 3rd-century monk called St Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a bishop who lived in what is now Turkey and he was well known for his kindness.

The most famous story about St. Nicholas is about a poor man with three daughters. The man did not have enough money to pay for his daughters to get married. St. Nicholas heard about the man and one night secretly dropped a bag of coins down his chimney. The bag fell into a sock which had been hung up to dry. That would become the start of the tradition of hanging a stocking over the fireplace. Later, St. Nicholas dropped a second bag down the chimney. The poor man decided to find out what was going on so he waited and eventually caught St. Nicholas dropping a third bag down the chimney. St. Nicholas asked the poor man not to tell anyone but soon everyone knew the story. After that, every time someone got a gift from an unknown person, people started thinking it was from St. Nicholas. This is the start of Santa delivering gifts down the chimney at night.

 

The Most Famous red Suit. 

The First Coca-Cola Santa

1931 Coca-Cola Santa

Despite what you might have heard, Coca-Cola is not responsible for the red suit. As a bishop, the original St. Nicholas would have worn a red robe, but this is not the only reason for his modern day appearance. Throughout the years, St. Nicholas was shown wearing different colours like red, green, blue or even brown fur. The red, however, was always the favourite. A magazine called Harper’s Weekly published drawings of St. Nick every year. From 1863 they published drawings by an artist named Thomas Nast. In 1881 Nast had drawn a figure with a pipe, big belly, rosy cheeks and an arm full of toys. This image is the one we all know. This image became incredibly popular and similar images were drawn by various other artists and it was only in 1931 that Coca-Cola created their iconic Santa.

Thomas Nast's Iconic Santa

1881 image by Thomas Nast

 

These days we see Santa Claus used to advertise all manner of Christmas specials.

 

Written by: Clifford Ekron

Last updated: December 11, 2018