The Evolution of Santa Claus

The Evolution of Santa Claus

By: Sarah Greeley

December 4, 2018


Every year during Christmas time, most kids all around the world know who Santa Claus is. But Santa Claus has a big history all on his own. The past Santa Claus all the way back to the third century is very different to the one today millions of children wait for every year.

Hundreds of years ago “Santa Claus” was actually known as a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that this monk was born around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra, Turkey. St. Nick is a source of many famous and well known legends because it is said that he traveled far and wide to help the sick and poor with his wealth he inherited. He was well known for helping these three sisters who were going to be sold to slavery, and was always celebrated with a feast on the day he died, December 6. People also often looked at this day as good luck and a lot of times people got married on this day as well. In Europe, St. Nicholas was very popular and always remained positive and popular.

When St. Nicholas first started to come to America, he became popular in New York at the end of the 18th century. In 1773 and 1774 a newspaper in New York wrote that many Dutch families were coming together to honor the anniversary of Saint Nick’s death. This made his name spread throughout America.

Santa Claus got his name from Saint Nick’s Dutch name, Sinter Klaas, which is another form of the name Sint Nikolaas. A member of the New York Historical Society, John Pintard, handed out wood carvings at the group’s annual meeting. The carvings had stockings with presents inside and fruit over a fireplace. Sinter Klaas’s popularity grew with the help of Washington Irving who wrote a book called, “The History of New York.” He was now described to have a blue three-cornered hat, a red waistcoat and yellow stockings.

Shopping malls including Santa started becoming a thing back in the early 19th century. They started to advertise Christmas shopping with newspapers having separate sections for the holiday advertisements. These ads showed pictures of Santa, drawing people in with the new popular guy. In stores there were life-size Santas which attracted many children. Soon enough stores started to show “live” Santas which drew even more children and families in. Back in the early 1890’s when the Salvation Army needed more money, they would dress people up in Santa Claus costumes and ask for donations. They have been doing this across America ever since while ringing bells.

In the early 1800’s Santa’s famous sleigh and appearance were made when a poem was written by Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote his poem for his three daughters. Later on in the late 1800’s, a cartoon was made which solidified his looks and story.

Each year and century, more people keep adding on to the Santa Claus story, making him one of the most popular known stories today.