A Quick History of Santa

Shamyah Williams, Writer

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One of the most iconic figures in history, one who is still vehemently celebrated today, is St. Nicholas, a.k.a, Santa Claus. Santa is mainly known as the jolly man in red bringing present or gifts, hopes and smiles to children everywhere. Santa Claus is known all over the world; but different countries have different perspectives on who he is and how he is celebrated.

The legend of St. Nick goes back hundreds of years to a Christian monk named St. Nicholas who lived in the 3rd century A.D. Very little is known about his life. People believed St. Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in current day Turkey. He’s mostly known for his piety and kindness and for donating money to a father forced to sell his daughter into prostitution.  

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened version of Sint Nikolaas.  In 1804, a member of the New York Historical Society gave out woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The carvings contained images soon to become associated with Santa: stockings filled with toys over the fire place. Washington Irving also helped spread the Sinter Klaas stories when he mentioned St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. 

Saint Nick has generally always been known for bringing gifts to young children, despite the differences among the different cultures and countries who celebrate him around the world.