The History of Santa Claus
Rooted in Norse and European legend, the original Saint Nicholas was a kind and generous saint of the 4th century born in Turkey. Disguised in a hooded cloak, he traveled from door to door leaving gifts of food, clothing and money for the poor and underprivileged.
Long after the legend of this benevolent saint had all but disappeared, Dutch children, who knew him as Sinter Klaas, continued to set their wooden shoes near the hearth hoping to find them filled with treats in the morning.
By the ninth century there was a rebirth of appreciation for the kindly Saint's life. The Clergy of Cologne began observing the anniversary of the death Saint Nicholas with gifts of fruit and cookies for the boys in the cathedral school. December 6th soon became Feast of Saint Nicholas Day and was celebrated by the people of many European countries as a special holiday.
As immigrants flowed into America, so did the legend of Sinter Klaas along with holiday customs. Most American children could not pronounce the Dutch name, so they called him Santa Claus.
Over the years, Santa Claus has become an all-American icon. As most people know, he was brought to life in a bedtime story written by nineteenth century poet Clement C. Moore originally titled "A Visit from St. Nicholas". We all know this traditional favorite as "The Night Before Christmas". With this, Moore created the modern-day image of Santa Claus with his rosy cheeks, round belly and magical flying reindeer sleigh we all know and love.
But the artists involved in the Coca-Cola Company's yearly holiday advertising campaign embellished the character with a red, fur-trimmed suit, black boots and a pointed hat making them more responsible for creating the accepted modern-day image of Santa Claus than anyone else.
Regardless of which image is your favorite, children all over the world still believe this jolly old elf brings sacks of toys down even the smallest chimney every Christmas Eve.