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From St Nicholas to Santa Clause

Here are a description of the origins of the man in red.

Father Christmas or Santa Claus, evolved from St Nicholas to the white-bearded man in the red suit as we know him today.

There are several legends about St Nicholas, but the website www.whychristmas.com says St Nicholas was a bishop who lived in the fourth century in Myra, Asia Minor (now called Turkey).

He apparently was a rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him money.

With this he was also a kind man with a reputation for helping the poor by giving secret gifts to people who needed it.

The legend of the hanging of stockings and Father Christmas coming down the chimney to bring gifts is synonymous with the Father Christmases we know today.

The website www.stnicholascenter.org gives this legend of St Nicholas’ giving.

It tells the story of a poor man with three daughters who was so poor that he did not have enough money for his daughters’ dowry, or as we know it, lobola.

The consequence was that his daughters couldn’t get married.

One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney into the house, which meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married.

The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry.

This was repeated later with the second daughter.

Nicholas’ benevolence was discovered when the father secretly hid by the fire every night until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold.

Nicholas was, according to the website, made a saint because of his kindness.

He is not only the saint of children, but also of sailors.

St Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian.

The website says the memory of St Nicholas’s good works were changed to those of Santa Claus after the stories and traditions about St Nicholas had become unpopular in the 16th century in Europe.

But, because someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, this icon became ‘Father Christmas’, a character from old children’s stories in the United Kingdom (UK), ‘Père Nöel’ in France, the ‘Christ Kind’ in Germany and ‘Kris Kringle’ in the early USA.

Later the Dutch settlers in the USA who took the old stories of St Nicholas with them, combined it with Kris Kringle to become ‘Sinterklaas’ or as we now say, ‘Santa Claus’.

Over the years, the UK Father Christmas and the American Santa Claus became more and more alike.

Today, the general belief is that Santa lives at the North Pole and in Finland, they say that he lives in the northern part of their country, called Lapland.

Everyone agrees today, and also believes, he travels through the sky on a sledge that is pulled by reindeer and that he comes into houses down the chimney at night to place presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds or as in South Africa in front of the family Christmas tree.

Many countries celebrate St Nicholas’ Day on December 6.

In Holland and some other European countries, children leave clogs or shoes out on this day to be filled with presents.

They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas’ horse, they will be left some sweets.The children of the world who don’t get their presents on St Nicholas’ Day of December 6, will receive their presents on the night of Christmas eve or early Christmas morning.

St Nocholas (stock image)
St Nocholas (stock image)

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