How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus

Santa in different colour outfitsIn the 16th Century in Europe, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas had become very unpopular.

But someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK, he became ‘Father Christmas’, a character from old children’s stories; in France, he was then known as ‘Père Nöel’; in Germany, the ‘Christ Kind’. In the early USA his name was ‘Kris Kringle’. Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle became ‘Sinterklaas’ or as we now say ‘Santa Claus’!

Many countries, especially ones in Europe, celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day on 6th December. In Holland and some other European Countries, children leave clogs or shoes out to be filled with presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas’s horse, they will be left some sweets.

St. Nicholas became popular again in the Victorian era when writers, poets and artists rediscovered the old stories.

In 1823 the famous poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ or ‘T’was the Night before Christmas’, was published. Dr Clement Clarke Moore later claimed that he had written it for his children. However, some scholars now believe that it was actually written by Henry Livingston, Jr., who was a distant relative of Dr Moore’s wife. The poem describes eight reindeer and gives them their names. They became really well known in the song ‘Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer’, written in 1949. Do you know all eight names?


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6 thoughts on “How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus

  1. Thank you for that descriptive piece about Father Christmas- whatever the origins, the feeling of someone you don’t know bringing you gifts, is magical and makes even adults become like children.
    Merry Christmas to you !

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