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Christmas - The Legend of Santa Claus - Who is This Unusually Dressed Fellow!

by Bernadette Dimitrov

One of the greatest highlights of Christmas is Santa Claus whose legend turned him into a magical kind-hearted, noble, and generous "good fairy Godfather" today!

Santa was originally a Bishop who after his death became the legendary Saint Nicholas. Here is something that you may be surprised to know. He was Greek and Greek speaking! He is believed to have been born around 280 AD in Patara near Myra. Originally Saint Nicholas was the Christian Bishop of Myra (today known as Turkey). Back in those days Myra was predominantly populated with Greeks. The Turks didn't arrive until the 11th century AD. This Bishop was a generous and kind-hearted man, devoted particularly to children. In 340AD after his death in Myra it is said that sailors stole his remains and took them to Bari, Italy where he remains today in the beautiful Basilica of Saint Nicholas specially built to house him. Medieval people believed relics of Saints had healing powers and every church had a store of them. The sailors increased his popularity in Europe with stories of his kindness and generosity which lead to increased devotion with stories of miracles.

St Nicholas became so popular, loved and adored by the people that he was honored as the patron Saint of just about everything! He was indeed the national Saint of Greece and Russia where churches were named in the thousands after him. Known by his red cape, flowing white beard and Bishop's miter he also become the patron Saint:

- in Greece of sailors

- in France of lawyers

- in Belgium of children and travelers

In other lands he was patron of merchants, judges, paupers and just about everything else you can think of!

An official church holiday was created in St Nicholas' honor some time around the 12th century. This was a time when thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him. A Feast Day in his honor on the 6th of December become the official day of his celebration and is the day of the anniversary of his death. In the early days of celebrations it was considered lucky to make large purchases or to get married on his Feast Day! Traditionally the day was honored each year with celebrations and marked by gift giving and charity.

How did his name transform from Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus? Some say it started from the Dutch naming of him. After the Reformation, European followers of Saint Nicholas dwindled but the legend was kept alive in Holland. Dutch children have a magical tradition where they excitedly leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace and "Sinterklaas" would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. The Dutch colonists brought this fun tradition with them to America in the 17th century where the spelling of his name "Sint Nikolaas" was eventually and affectionately transformed to "Sinterklaas". Hence the Anglican name "Santa Claus" emerged which is now the most popular name he is known by today! However others suggest the Anglican name comes from the Germans. As "Santa" is said to have come from the word "Saint" and "Claus" is an abbreviation for the name Nicholas in Germany.

What did he look like? Originally he appeared in Bishop's robes holding a Bishop's miter. When first arrived in America Santa didn't look like the figure we know today. He was a thin, sad faced old man wearing a fur-trimmed knee-length coat. Santa's back in the old days were usually dressed in blue, green or black with no red and white we see today in sight! It was by the mid 1850's that the red and white fat jolly version we know today gained popularity.

The American image of Santa Claus developed from the Dutch austere Sinterklaas; a bishop in a red bishop's costume who rode a white horse. Washington Irving in his comic "History of New York" is said to be the first to describe him as plump and jolly. The evolution of the image of Santa Claus continued in 1823 with the publication of the famous poem by Clement C Moore "A Visit From Saint Nicholas".

In England by the mid 19th century Santa was a fat, red faced, jovial character who wore glasses and a crown of holly on his head. He appeared almost always tipsy accompanied by a steaming bowl of punch with either a glass of punch or ale in his hand. We know that around the world Santa has been depicted in many shapes and forms including the most popular being tall and thin or short and fat.

How did he become so famous? A transformation onto paper leads the way! Dr Clement C Moore (an Episcopal Minister) in 1822 described Santa Claus as a benevolent plump jolly man in a red suit. He originally wrote the famous poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" for his 3 daughters after an inspirational moonlight sleigh ride home from the market after buying a Christmas turkey. It was not published for another 20 years. Then fame didn't take long to spread to children and adults around the world. It was much loved for its sense of fun and magic. This poem helped to popularize the idea of Santa Claus visiting on Christmas Eve.


About the Author
Mrs Claus (aka Christmas author Bernadette Dimitrov) and her world-wide inspirational guests! It's a fun show with something for both young and old with prizes to be won! Also come visit http://www.HoHoHoChristmas.com and join our free inspirational Christmas newsletter & receive free gifts!

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