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Who is Santa Claus?
25 Nov 17 - By Doug Crowder

Who is Santa Claus?

Have you ever wondered who the jolly fellow in the red suit really is? Well, I've done some research on this character, and here's what I found out:

Who is Santa Claus?

Have you ever wondered who the jolly fellow in the red suit really is? Well, I've done some research on this character, and here's what I found out:

The exact year of his birth is unknown but is thought to be between the years 270 and 280. That would make him about 1730 years old - the second oldest man alive today, right behind Elvis.

Also his last name is unknown. But his first name was Nicholas. He was born near Myra in what is now known as Turkey. 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.

He was described as "very rich, generous, and loving toward children." He often went out at night, disguised in a hooded cloak, to leave necessary gifts of money, clothing or food at the windows of unfortunate families.

Legends tell of him dropping bags of gold down chimneys or throwing them through the windows where they landed in the stockings hung from the fireplace to dry. One of the best-known stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by providing them with dowries so they could be married.

One would think that a fellow like this would have a clean record. However, he did some time in jail. He was appointed as bishop of Myra and was soon imprisoned by the Roman Emperor Diocletian who persecuted Christians. When Constantine the Great became Emperor, he released Nicholas.

Nicholas supposedly died on December 6, 343. But, as history and evidence have shown, reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

In 842 Methodius, Bishop of Constantinople, wrote the first biography of St. Nicholas listing all his miracles. Since this was only 499 years after his supposed death, the information contained therein was no doubt completely accurate.

In 987, Nicholas became Patron Saint of Russia. By this time his fame had spread far and wide and he was adopted by many guilds and groups as their patron including: Sailors; Children; Spinsters; Pawnbrokers.

Between 800 and 1300, St. Nicholas shamelessly copied a number of his competitors. Odin, the main god of the Vikings, came to Earth in December, dressed in a hooded cloak, to sit and listen to his people and see if they are contented or not. It was said that he carried a satchel full of bounty which he distributed to the needy or worthy. He was portrayed as a Sage with long white beard and hair, who flew through the skies on an 8-legged white horse. Around 1300, St. Nicholas, who had previously had a short dark beard, adopted Odin's long flowing white beard.

In Germanic countries, a character known as "Winterman" supposedly came down from the mountains with the snows, dressed in furs and skins, heralding winter. In Scandinavia, he herded reindeer down to lower pastures, which was a sign that the winter snows were coming.

By 1400, over 500 songs and hymns had been written in honour of Nicholas. One wonders what happened to all of these, since we only have about a hundred now.

St. Nicholas was also instrumental in the discovery of the new world. In 1492, Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue and he arrived in Haiti on December 6th, naming the port St. Nicholas in thanks for the safe journey.

By 1500, more than 700 churches in Britain alone were dedicated to St. Nicholas.

In 1607, according to reports by Captain John Smith, the first eggnog was made in the United States and was consumed in his Jamestown settlement. Nog comes from the word grog, which refers to any drink made with rum. (This doesn't have anything to do with St. Nicholas, but seemed somehow relevant.)

In 1626, a fleet of ships left Holland for the New World. The lead ship, the "Goodwife," had the figurehead of St. Nicholas. Upon arriving, the settlers spent the equivalent of $24.00 to buy some land from the Iroquois Indians. They named the village 'NEW AMSTERDAM' and erected a statue to St. Nicholas. (That village is now known as "New York.")

In 1647, Christmas was banned in England.

In 1678, a book was published in London entitled 'The Examination and Tryal of old Father Christmas." In this book, he did obtain an acquittal from the Jury.

In 1651, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, settled by English Puritans, banned all observation of Christmas.

In 1664, New Amsterdam was fought over and won by the British, who named it New York. They banned Christmas and St. Nicholas, and his statue fell. (340 years later, the statue of Saddam Hussein fell.)

Since the 1800's, St. Nicholas has probably spent more time in America than in any other country.

In 1806, he gave an interview to Washington Irving, one of the first American writers, who portrayed him as being jolly, smoking a clay pipe, and having as his transportation, a wagon drawn by one horse.

In 1821, he was portrayed in a poem as riding sleigh drawn by one reindeer.

Later in 1821, he gave an exclusive interview to Rev. Clement Moore, who compiled his data into a poem called "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known by its first line, "Twas the Night Before Christmas." At that time, it was revealed that St. Nick was an elf rather than a human. This could explain his unusually long life span and also the fact that he had a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

These reindeer were named, of course, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen. There is still a controversy over whether the true name of the 7th reindeer is "Donner" or "Donder," and Senator Robert J. Dole (R - Kansas, and former presidential candidate) allegedly called for an investigation of this critical issue.

One wouldn't expect a saint, especially one as generous as St. Nick, to take sides in a war, but that's exactly what St. Nick did in 1863. During the American Civil War, he posed for a picture by illustrator Thomas Nast, called "Santa Claus in Camp." In this picture, St. Nick wore the stars and stripes of the Union and was in camp with Union Soldiers. Many historians say this was one of the most demoralizing moments for the Confederates - seeing St. Nick with the North.

However, parents in the South spared their children this insult. Instead they explained that the shortage of Christmas presents was the result of the Union blockade, which was so tight that not even Santa could get through.

From 1863 through 1886, Santa continued a special relationship with Thomas Nast, who is also recognized as the first political cartoonist. Santa posed for many Nast illustrations during these years. By this time, he was human sized again.

In the 1870's, Santa started appearing in department stores in the USA and Canada, and in the 1890's, using his alias as "Father Christmas," began to appear in British stores.

In 1931, he went to work for the Coca Cola Company in a major ad campaign to promote the soft drink. Santa's appearance changed once again. This time, he was a full sized human,and looked remarkably like Coca Cola's artist, Haddon Sundblom. In fact, this is the image which now springs to mind as the traditional Santa, rather than the earlier illustrations by Nast. It has been suggested that this is the reason Santa wears red and white - these are the Coca Cola colors.

In 1939, a ninth reindeer joined Santa's fleet - the mutant reindeer Rudolph, who formerly worked for the Montgomery Ward Company, where he got his luminous red nose.

Other than the fact that he is probably part elf, what else can explain his extraordinary lifespan?

In 1897, it was suggested by one newspaper that he was in fact immortal, or very close to it. You may have heard the phrase, "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus." In 1897, an eight year old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote this letter to the New York Sun:

"Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? -- Virginia O'Hanlon"

Here's part of editor's reply: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!

"No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

So, the next time you see Santa, show a little respect. Not only does he have the backing of corporate America, but he is probably going to outlive everyone alive today. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Doug Crowder is an attorney practicing in Los Angeles. He believes in Santa. Contact information can be found in the Business Directory.

© 2007-2011 Doug Crowder. All rights reserved.


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