John Coots wrote, “You better watch out you better not cry, you better not pout I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town!” The Jolly Old Elf is on his way with less than three weeks until Christmas. With Christmas so close, do you know the story behind St. Nick?
The Real St. Nicholas
There is a real person behind St. Nick. The original Santa is a Christian monk, St. Nicholas of Myra born in asia Minor to wealthy parents. The area is now Turkey. His parents died in an epidemic when Nicholas was young. He followed Jesus words “sell what you own and give money to the poor”.
St. Nicholas dedicated his life to serving God. Using his inheritance for others and serving God, he was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Today, he is known for his love of children, sailors and ships. One story told in almost all the different places I searched shared that three young girls were saved from a life of prostitution when the young Bishop Nicholas secretly delivered three bags of gold to their indebted father, to be used for their dowries.
Today many make a Pilgrimages to the church where St. Nicholas is believed to be buried at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari, Italy.
Becoming Santa Claus
St. Nicholas name changed in the Dutch language to Sinterklaas. He is depicted as a tall, white-bearded man in red clerical robes. Sinterklaas arrives December 6th by boat. He leaves gifts or coal-lumps at children’s homes. There are many other stories around the world, in France Pere Noel leaves gifts in shoes and stories go on and on!
Santa in America
In modern times, stories of Sinterklaas were brought to the New World by Dutch settlers. Washington Irving’s 1809 “History of New-York,” portrayed St. Nicholas as a portly Dutchman who flew the skies in a wagon, dropping gifts down chimneys.
In 1823 Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” is better known as “The Night Before Christmas” brought the traditional sleigh into play along with the Santa’s reindeer.
The round and rosy Santa was introduced by cartoonist Thomas Nast. Then in 1879 Nast suggested that St. Nicholas lived not in Turkey, Spain or Holland but at the North Pole!
There are many stories that have made Santa who he is. Many adults have various feelings about the Kris Kringle, but it is hard to deny the joy he brings to big and little ones alike. Whether you are a fan or a bah humbug about the situation, Santa is an integral part of the Christmas tradition almost anywhere you travel!