Of all the Christmas legends and traditions, Santa Claus seems to be the most popular. After all, Christmas is about giving and who started the tradition of giving presents at Christmastime? Santa Claus himself, or should I say "Saint Nicholas". Here in America, we didn't really know who Saint Nicholas was, until Dutch immigrants introduced "Sinterklass" (meaning St. Nicholas) to the colonies.
In Europe, St. Nicholas or "Sinterklass" was a legendary Bishop who lived in the fourth century AD in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now Turkey). He was a very kind rich man who had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to needy people. Children in Europe spoke of celebrating this Saint's Day on December 6th, when they would leave shoes outside their door for secret gifts. Many English-speaking children pronounced "Sinterklass" so quickly that it sounded like "Santa Claus" and the name stuck ever since.
How did Santa Claus become what he is today, a jolly man in a red suit? In 1823, Dr. Clement Clarke Moore wrote the famous poem 'T'was the Night before Christmas'. The poem describes Santa Claus with his eight reindeer. Then in January, 1863, the magazine Harper's Weekly published the first illustration of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, by Thomas Nast. Years later, on January 1, 1881, they published his most famous image with Santa, complete with a big round belly in a red suit, with a arm full of toys, smoking a pipe. Since then, there have been many images of Santa Claus through the years. However, Santa Claus is and always we be depicted as the jolly man, with a white beard in a bright red suit and stocking cap, carrying a bag full of toys.
Santa Claus is a legend that was passed on from our ancestors and continues to warm the hearts of all who believe. Read the "Santa Claus Story", printed 1897 in the New York Sun Newspaper about a little year who wrote the newspaper to ask them if Santa Claus was real. The story is genuine and tells us why Santa Claus is so popular. He represents joy, love, generosity, goodness, fairness, devotion, and hard work. After all, isn't that what Christmas is all about?