English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Yesterday, on the way to school, my son asked an interesting question that I didn’t know the answer to: I know Santa Claus comes from St. Nicholas, but when did Santa Claus come into the picture? 1900s, 1800s? So, his question sent me on a journey that I thought I’d share with you today. In short, Santa didn’t come from one source, but has been pieced together by an assortment of stories.

St. Nicholas was born around 270 A.D., and became a bishop as a young man. As you may well know, he dedicated his life to helping the young and needy. He famously paid for the dowries of young girls, saving them from being sold into a life of slavery (or worse). He was also known for leaving coins in the shoes of children. He was often depicted as wearing a red bishop’s robe. After his death, legend of his kindness and generosity grew, and he was canonized as the patron saint of children. For hundreds of years, feasts were held in his honor on the date of his death, December 6. During that time, small gifts were given to children.

During the Protestant Reformation, the Dutch began referring to St. Nicholas as Sinterklaas (a nickname which is short for St. Nicholas). The name stuck and eventually made its way to America. The first mention of Santa Claus in American society took place in 1773 in a New York City newspaper. During the early versions of the story, Santa Claus would come by horseback and bring gifts to deserving children on December 5.

In 1809, Santa was described as being portly, and his shape began to take place. It wasn’t until 1823 that Santa became known as the person that we know him today. Clement Clarke Moore wrote The Night Before Christmas. It was in this poem that Moore described many attributes of Santa that we know today. Santa was described as a giant elf that goes from house to house on a magical sleigh driven by 8 reindeer. He also was depicted as sliding down chimneys.

After the legend was created, it was several years before the current American version of Santa took place. An illustrator for Harper’s Magazine first depicted Santa very much as the person that we know today in 1881. However, it wasn’t until 1931 that Coca Cola introduced its marketing campaign that depicts Santa as the person that is now known throughout the world.

While there are still countries that celebrate the arrival of Santa on December 5 (the eve of his death), Americans have always celebrated the visiting of Santa on Christmas Eve (December 24).

As his legend grew, children understandably began wondering where he lived when he wasn’t delivering presents. So, he has been said to live at the North Pole with his magic reindeer (9 including Rudolph, but only 8 originally known) and magic elves that help him crank out the gifts for all the good children of the world.

So, now you know. Next time your child asks you “tell me about Santa”, you can look them in the eyes and honestly tell them “Dear, it’s way too confusing a story, and I’m not sure you really want to know.”

Of course, if you’re planning a Christmas party in or around Tampa, let 5 Alarm Party Rentals bring the gift of joy by delivering a great bounce house. Merry Christmas!