We all remember a time when we left cookies and milk on the hearth for Santa and waited all night to see if we could spot him coming down the chimney. It’s part of the magic of Christmas and the season of believing. Here at Stephen’s Place, we make sure every one of our residents has a present under the tree and we try our hardest to keep the holiday spirit alive.
Santa Claus, or as he was originally known as — Saint Nicholas, is one of those figures that has existed in cultures across the globe for centuries. But where did he come from? How did the legend of Santa begin? It all dates back to the 3rd century in what is now modern-day Turkey.
Saint Nicholas, or Nikolaos of Myra, was a monk who was known for his kindness and generosity. There were many tales of him helping the poor, protecting children and performing miracles. His giving nature was what warranted various churches to venerate him upon his death, making him one of the most celebrated and honored saints in Christianity. December 6th is traditionally the day to honor him with a feast and this practice continued to be popular throughout Europe during the Renaissance and even after the Protestant Reformation.
Fast forward to the late 1700’s and Sinter Klaas (short for Sint Nikolaas) arrived in the United States thanks to Dutch immigrants in New York. Families would carry on the tradition of honoring Sinter Klaas on December 6th until Washington Irving wrote about him in 1809, in his work The History Of New York. In 1841, a life-size model of Santa was displayed in Philadelphia, bringing lots of children and their parents into stores to see it. It wasn’t long until the Salvation Army was dressing up unemployed men as Santa to solicit donations and help feed the needy in 1890 and this custom persists to this day.
In the same time frame, the famous “Night Before Christmas,” story was written in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore in his poem “An Account Of A Visit From Saint Nicholas.” While he didn’t claim authorship until 1837, the poem was published anonymously and became an instant hit. In 1881, cartoonist Thomas Nast created the image we all know and love, illustrating Moore’s poem with a jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim. With the addition of newspapers increasing their advertising for holiday shopping, the mainstream tradition of Christmas was born.
We hope you enjoyed this little peek into the history of Santa Claus! Never stop believing and we wish you a merry holiday season!