Where does the story of Santa Claus come from?

What is the origin of Santa Claus?

Santa Claus is believed to have been born around 1,700 years ago. His name was Nicholas of Myra, a wealthy Turkish bishop who used to go and distribute gifts and food to the poorest at night.

When he was canonized by the church, at a time when the latter sought to replace the characters of pagan festivals with saints, Saint Nicholas’ Day on December 6 became a popular religious holiday in several countries around the world. Despite the Protestant reform of the 16th century which suppressed this holiday in many European countries, the Dutch transformed Saint Nicholas into a semi-secular character, Sinter Klaas and kept his distribution of toys.

The name Santa Claus (Father Christmas) is actually a deformation of the Dutch term Sinter Klaas (Saint Nicholas).

Santa Claus in the United States

When the first immigrants arrive in the United States, “Sinter Klaas” turns into Santa Claus. In 1821, an American pastor, Clement Clarke Moore, published a children’s Christmas story called ” The Night before Christmas », In which Saint Nicholas is presented as a friendly, plump and smiling leprechaun, who distributes gifts in the houses and travels on a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer, (Rudolf, the little red-nosed reindeer in charge of enlightening the path, does not appear until later, in 1839).

The story is translated and published around the world. This is the starting point for the development of the current myth of Santa Claus who arrives on Christmas Eve rather than the same day. In 1863, the designer Thomas Nast published an illustration in Harper’s Illustrated Weekly, in which Santa Claus wears a costume edged with white fur and a large leather belt. For 30 years, Nast illustrated with his drawings all aspects of the legend of Santa Claus: a little round man, dressed in a fur coat, the pipe at the corner of his mouth. It was also Nast who, in an 1885 drawing, established Santa Claus’ residence at the North Pole.

Santa Claus reused by Coca-Cola

In 1931, illustrator Haddon Sundblom drew Santa Claus for Coca-Cola advertisements, apparently taking himself as a model. Other companies, such as Waterman in 1907 or Michelin in 1919, had already used the image of Santa Claus for their advertisements, but it was the illustrations of Sundblom, who dressed the character in red and white, in the colors of Coca-Cola. Cola.

Other sources

The current Santa Claus was also strongly inspired by Julenisse, an elf or gnome who has been part of Scandinavian folklore for centuries. They are important characters of the feast of the winter solstice.

From Julenisse, Father Christmas kept the white beard, the cap and the clothes in red fur.

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