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The History of Santa Claus

Where did the big guy in red come from anyway?

Ally McMillan, Managing Co-Editor

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Every year, Jolly Old Santa Claus visits your house to leave Christmas gifts underneath the tree. Whether you believe it or not, you probably have wondered where this legend came from.

The tradition can be traced back to an old monk named St. Nicholas, and it is believed he was born around 280 A.D. in Turkey. One of the well-known legends is that he saved two sisters from slavery and prostitution by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Nicholas became very popular over the years. St. Nicholas made his first “appearance” in the U.S. when groups of Dutch Families in New York gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus came from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Saint Nikolas. In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society gave woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The images included stockings filled with fruits and toys.

Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in the early 1800s. In the early 1890s, malls began hiring unemployed men to act as a Santa. They were sent on the streets of New York to solicit donations for the Salvation Army, and they have been ringing bells ever since.

The tradition of Santa visiting on Christmas came from a poet, named Clement Clarke Moore, wrote a poem called “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” The long poem describes Santa Claus and his ability to go down the chimney on Christmas Eve. Moore’s poem helped create the image of Santa Claus.

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