Did you know?
Santa Claus was a war hero.
Santa Claus was an outlaw!
Santa's Grumpy Elf tells all about Santa Claus!
Santa was a criminal! He was outlawed by the British Parliament in 1644!
Today, Thursday, August 22, 2019, Santa Claus is 1,748 years, 8 months, 16 days, 16 hours and 7 minutes old!
Santa has not always appeared the way we think of him today. The first well-known gift-giver was a true person--St. Nicholas. He lived in Myra (today we know it as Turkey) in about 300A.D. Born an only child of a wealthy family, he was orphaned at an early age when both parents died of the plague. He grew up in a monastery and at the age of 17 became one of the youngest priests ever.
Many stories are told of his generosity as he gave his wealth away in the form of gifts to those in need, especially children. Legends tell of him either dropping bags of gold down chimneys or throwing the bags through the windows where they landed in the stockings hung from the fireplace to dry. Some years later Nicholas became a bishop--hence the bishop's hat or miter, long flowing gown, white beard and red cape. After his death he was elevated to sainthood. Eventually the Catholic Church started celebrating Christmas and St. Nicholas was incorporated into the season.
When the Reformation took place, the new Protestants no longer desired St. Nicholas as their gift-giver as he was too closely tied to the Catholic Church. Therefore, each country or region developed their own gift-giver. In France he was known as Pere Noel. In England he was Father Christmas (always depicted with sprigs of holly, ivy or mistletoe). Germany knew him as Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man). When the communists took over in Russia and outlawed Christianity, the Russians began to call him Grandfather Frost, who wore blue instead of the traditional red. To the Dutch, he was Sinterklaas (which eventually was mispronounced in America and became Santa Claus). These Santas were arrayed in every color of the rainbow--sometimes even in black. But they all had long white beards and carried gifts for the children.
The Santa we know today had his beginnings in 1823 with Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in which he described St. Nicholas as "chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf". Forty years later, Thomas Nast, political cartoonist, created a different illustration each year of Santa for the cover of Harper's Weekly. His Santa was a plump, jolly old fellow with a white beard and smoking a long stemmed pipe. In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to do an illustration showing Santa with the Union troops. Many historians say this was one of the most demoralizing moments for the Confederate army....seeing Santa side with the North. In the South, by 1863, the Union had blockaded their ports and very little was able to get through. Southern families explained to their children that even "Santa" could not get through the blockade.
Finally, from 1931 to 1964, Haddon Sundblom drew a new Santa each Christmas for Coca-Cola advertisements that appeared world-wide on the back covers of Post and National Geographic magazines. This is the Santa we know and love today with a red suit trimmed with white fur, leather boots and belt, long white beard and a pack of toys slung onto his back. (But no, Santa does NOT work for Coca-Cola! 😆 )