A Brief History of Santa

A Brief History of Santa


On the 24th of December every year children
around the world put out milk and cookies in the hopes of luring a magic fat man into
their home who will leave presents behind before sneaking into the house next door. How did such an odd tradition begin? You can pretty much blame Northern Europe,
where the winter weather is cold and dark and depressing. And the coldest and darkest and depressingest
day is the Solstice on December 21st or 22nd when the sun only gives a few hours of weak
light if any at all. These sun-deprived people invented magical
characters to visit them and lighten the mood by bringing gifts and celebrations. These characters ranged from elves to Gods
to goats, but there are two of particular interest to the modern story. The first is St Nick, in The Netherlands.
St Nick is thin and perhaps a bit stern, but still brings presents to children early in
December. He dresses like a bishop in red and white with a staff and rides on a horse
named Amerigo, for whom Dutch children are encouraged to leave out a carrot. St Nick
is called Sinterklaas in Dutch. The second character is Father Christmas from
England. Father Christmas is a big, jolly pagan dressed in green with a holly wreath
on his head. Traditionally he is less concerned with children
and gifts than he is with food and wine and celebration and is perhaps best known for
being one of the three spirits of Christmas who terrorize Scrooge. When Europeans settled the Colonies St Nick
and Father Christmas and the other characters began to mix together. This explains why the US version has so many
names. Santa Claus is the Americanization of Sinterklaas, but he’s also called St Nick
and Father Christmas and Kris Kringle which comes from Germany. In the old world these were different characters,
but in the new world over time they evolved into one which you can see happening in older
stories. For example, the poem, “The Night Before Christmas”
came out in 1823 in New York which established that Santa lands on the roof and fills stocking
with toys. But this Santa is an elf, much like those
from the Nordic Countries. He’s very small and drives a miniature sleigh with tiny reindeer
— which makes a lot more sense for someone whose job description includes fitting down
chimneys. Also, the word, ‘Santa’ appears nowhere in
the poem. The original title is ‘A visit from St Nick’. As the 1800s continued a fat, human looking
immortal Santa evolved into the standard among American authors. It was in the states that
he gained both his elvish workforce and a wife. By about 1900 Santa had developed his current
iconic style. It should be noted that, contrary to popular belief, Coca-Cola didn’t change
his colors to their corporate scheme but instead used the conveniently red-and-white Santa
in 1931 to help sell more soda during their off season. Though Coke didn’t create him their omni-present
ads probably did brand this as the One True Santa in the minds of millions helping spread
him round the world to many cultures with no traditions of winter gift-givers. This American Santa in-turn influenced his
relations in Northern Europe to become more like him, although not always to the pleasure
of the locals. In particular, the British Father Christmas
has been completely assimilated into the Santa collective to the point where many Britons
don’t realize they were ever separate. In the Netherlands, however, St Nick is still
successfully holding his own as a distinct character. The one last detail about modern Santa that’s
still up for debate, at least between countries, is where exactly he lives. In the late 1800s his home was the magnetic
north pole centered under the aurora borealis. While this would be the most diplomatic option
for Santa Magnetic North has since moved off the Polar Ice Sheet and into the Ocean, a
rather inconvenient place to set up a toy factory. So Canada claims his workshop is somewhere
in Nunavut and has given Santa a post code and — no joke — official Canadian citizenship. The American response is that the North Pole
doesn’t refer to the obviously inhospitable sheet of non-domestic ice but rather to the
little town of North Pole, Alaska. Denmark claims he lives in their former colony
of Greenland. And Greenland, not surprisingly, agrees. The Nordic countries quarrel about his exact
location but Finland is the clear winner of this argument with his workshop in Rovaniemi
on the Arctic Circle. For the evidence inclined, you can actually
go visit Santa there and see the elves, toys, reindeer and post office, which makes Finland’s
claim pretty strong. Santa is even available during the off season. But, no matter where he might be based, Santa
still manages to get round the world in just one night to deliver all those presents…
and eat all those cookies.

100 thoughts on “A Brief History of Santa

  1. Things I learned today:
    – The North Pole moves
    – The North Pole is not in Antarctica O.O
    – The USA, Canada and China are pretty close to equal in geographical size. (Damn Mercator projection makes it look like Greenland is more than twice the size of the USA when it's actually less than half.)

  2. I'm from Belgium and when i Found out that Sinterklaas (calling him St. Nick feels weird) wasn't real it was quite a schok (like when you find out that santa isn't real but they just tell us that from the begining, one gift giver is enough) but it was absolutely mindblowing to me that Sinterklaas only existed in Belgium and the Netherlands and that there were actual People that beleaved in santa

  3. Ok i know its diffrent in other parts of the nordic countries but where come from father christmas live in the forest and the day before christmas you put out a bowl of gröt (i dont know the english name) and in the morning its gone and then in the evening he comes again and smells a little liqour and hand out presents

  4. "completely assimilated into the Santa Collective"….. i guess resistance truly IS futile when it comes to Coca-Cola Santa :-=).

  5. How to cheer people up in the dead of winter:
    The Netherlands: PRESENTS!
    Britain: BOOZE!

    Two different cultural traditions here.

  6. In the netherlands they believe hes from spain, hence why he rides into town on a spanish galeon and has a moorish slave named swartzpete

  7. Imagine being the Finnish Santa, doing nothing but existing, talking to visiting families, and living on what seems to be a small estate. The only requirements are that you're a man, old, fat, and able to live there for a long time.

  8. What about the troll santa that you paid with porridge and hoped that they wouldn't eat or steal you're richess.

  9. Heya, finnish here. No one thinks that santa lives in Rovanniemi. Everything related to him points into him living in Korvatunturi

  10. Update from the Netherlands. Sinterklaas' horse Amerigo has retired and can spend his days relaxing. His new horse is called Ozosnel.

  11. As a German, a question to other germans: have you ever heard of Kris Kringel? 🎅
    Also, in Germany we also have st. Nicholas, and there's actually a children's songabout him and Santa Claus being annoyed that people confuse them 😆

  12. The “12 days of Christmas” idea came from how around the time of the winter solstice, the Romans thought the world was ending so got really drunk during 12 days around that time and that ended up blending into other ideas due to the spread of Christianity.

  13. In the UK we don't put out milk and cookies; we put out mince pies and whiskey. Also we send letters to him by sending them up the chimney

  14. I find it really nice that all those counties say that santa lives in various parts of the world, I'm not even romotely suprised that Canada does that too (it's also cool that they gave him his own postcode lol)

  15. bait a fat man to leave them presents.
    you forgot also potentially taking any problem children away…
    but I mean I guess I will let that slide XD

  16. Yeah, but you missed that other countries don't celebratw Christmas the same way Americans do. Germans get together with the family on December 24th and get the presents then, the next morning is uneventful. After that they usually spend a few days with family

  17. In sloavakia he has adifferent name ježíško and he has a few second minutes at best while we wash our hqnds ant we open peesents on christmass eve not the morning after

  18. I'm Norwegian and here we believe in Santa as Someone who lives in a barn and he is almost always angry. We have our own songs about how he sits in a barn and eats christmas-porridge while some mouse try and take it

    Edit: and also the ''famous'' brown cheese

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