We all know that Christmas is a time of celebration for Christians, but Father Christmas plays a big part in the majority of our Christmases especially those of children.
But where did the legend of Santa come from? There are and have been many names for our favourite Christmas character, Santa Claus, Kris Kringle and Old Saint Nick, naming but a few, but where did it all begin?
In this blog we want to go back in time to discover the history behind the big man in red!
The legend can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas who was born sometime around 280 AD. He was actually born in Patara in Turkey. This monk’s kindness became part of many legends as he used to give away his inherited wealth to the poor and sick, and travelled around the countryside to do so.
One of the best known stories of St. Nicholas is that of three poor sisters that were being sold to slavery by their father. St. Nicholas helped by providing them with a dowry to be married. Over many years St. Nicholas’ popularity spread and he was known as a protector of children and sailors.
While St. Nicholas was alive, Pope Julius I selected a day for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. He happened to pick December 25th! There had been a long pagan midwinter festival held around this time so the Pope hoped the festival would Christianise it.
After a while, December 25th became associated with St. Nicholas’ Feast Day and his connection with Christmas was found. A tradition was found that he used to go and visit houses and children would leave nuts, fruits, sweets and other gifts around their home to welcome him (this is clearly where leaving mince pies and milk for Santa came from!)
As the reformation took hold of most of Europe the popularity of St. Nicholas dropped in most protestant countries apart from Holland where he was still known as Sinter Klass. After this tradition came to the United States he was later known as ‘Sancte Claus’.
It seems likely the tradition of St. Nicholas became known in America from a wave of Dutch custom after the Revolutionary War. Author Washington Irving, of Legend of Sleepy Hollow, features St. Nicholas in a comic – History of New York City in 1809.
John Pintard, Founder of the New York Historical Society took an interest in St Nicholas and an anniversary dinner was held for him in 1810. An artist called Alexander Anderson was commissioned to draw the Saint for the dinner. At this time he was still portrayed as a religious figure but now was clearly seen dropping presents into children’s stockings hung by the fire to dry.
The image of Father Christmas was probably put into Americans’ heads the most by a poem called ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’, written by Clement Moore in 1822. This poem includes some elements of German and Norse legends and he is described as a tiny man with a sleigh which is pulled by eight miniature reindeer! These reindeer fly him to houses where he goes down the chimney to fill stockings with gifts.
Moore had originally written this poem for the enjoyment of his own family, but was it was very popular and was later published under the famous title of ‘The Night before Christmas’.
Where did the reindeer come from? People living in Northern Scandinavia used reindeer to pull their sledges around. They are much more suited than North American deer as they are better adapted to the winter weather, as they have heavy fur coats and flat hooves ideal for the snow!
As time went by more was added to the Santa Claus legend, such as:
- Thomas Nast, a cartoonist at the time imagined him living in the North Pole.
- He also gave him a workshop to make his toys, and a big book with all the names of the children who had been naughty and nice.
- 19thcentury Santa was depicted wearing different coloured suits, purple, blue, green and red, all of which faded out, now Santa Claus was known as a man in a red suit!
Now you know where he came from, welcome Santa into your home this Christmas with some of our fantastic products here at UK Christmas World!
Perfect for outdoors, our 38cm Acrylic Santa with LEDs is great for illuminating an area of your home. With its 48 bright LED lights this jolly chap will welcome guests and family to your home this Christmas. And for just £29.99 he is a real bargain!
We think this Animated Skiing Santa is ideal for adding some character to your home. Kids especially will love this fun decoration! This Santa decoration has animated arms that move in a skiing motion and has 27 bright LED lights so can be enjoyed in both the day and night time!
The whole family will love this fun Animated Surfing Santa who sings and dances! People of all ages will have endless amounts of fun watching this musical decoration this Christmas. Simply pop in his batteries (provided) and watch him go! A quirky item for your home this festive season!
These are just a few examples of the fantastic Santa themed decorations we have available to purchase now. To view our whole range of these decorations and more, head over to our UK Christmas World website now.