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Apparently anonymity was hard, since he became famous for it. Nicholas was also known for leaving coins or other treats in the shoes of local children, and eventually the little punks came to expect it and would leave their shoes out on purpose in the hope of finding something good inside them the next day. In traditional images, Nicholas is usually portrayed wearing a red cloak, much like our modern Santa only more bishopy. He is also said to have had a small orphan boy working as his helper, who was more or less the first elf.

Nicholas died on December 6, which is well within the season of holiday shopping frenzy, and was shortly thereafter canonized as the patron saint of children. After his death, people honored him each year with a December 6 feast and carried on the tradition of leaving gifts in children's shoes.


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For a while, St. Nicholas was mostly a Dutch thing. Protestantism frowned upon the celebration of saints as a form of idolatry, so parents had to tell their kids that not only was St. Nicholas forbidden but also they wouldn't be getting any presents on December 6. Now just imagine for a moment if everyone said that to their kids today: "Santa Claus is an idol and therefore won't be coming to our house anymore. After St. Nicholas got the Protestant boot, people mostly stopped celebrating December 6, with the exception of the Dutch , who were all, "To hell with you and your dumb rules" and went on with the feasting and the gift giving anyway.


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By the Middle Ages, he was assisted by elves, he had some cool Santa magic that got him and and out of chimneys, and although he hadn't yet discovered flying reindeer he did seem to have at least one flying horse. Incidentally, in order to get a gift you were expected to leave some treats out for the horse, which explains why Sinterklaas hadn't yet reached traditional Santa Claus rotundity. Cookies would come in later centuries. Other European cultures maintained some form of St. Nicholas, too — in Britain he was known as "Father Christmas," though back then he was mostly just an annoying guy who wandered around town and invited himself over to random houses for Christmas dinner.

Besides being the ancient equivalent of that lonely guy at work who's always hinting that maybe he should come over to your house for Christmas this year, Father Christmas lived in the far north, which explains why no one was ever able to track him down and arrest him for trespassing and home invasion. As if Father Christmas wasn't weird enough, there were also the German gift-givers, who were a clever way of skirting the Protestant moratorium on St. According to National Geographic , the Germans just moved the gift-giving day to Christmas because who could argue with that?

What Santa Claus looks like around the world - Insider

There were a few logistical problems to sort out, though — since Baby Jesus was technically an infant and therefore unable to carry million gifts around, the Germans gave him some assistants. These assistants weren't jolly, though, because the Germans also knew that you could make kids behave by saying things like "he sees you when you're sleeping," which is freaking terrifying. So the German gift-givers brought gifts but also whipped or kidnapped naughty kids, which made them early versions of modern Stalker Santa. Long before the Germans, the Norse had their own story of a terrifying gift-giver who would show up during the winter festival.

According to the Norwegian American , on the night of the winter solstice, the God Odin would fly around on an eight-legged horse, terrorizing anyone unfortunate enough to be out after dark, which kinda sounds like it might be the origin story for Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. If he got bored with the whole running-down-innocent-pedestrians thing, Odin might also turn into smoke and come down your chimney, which is obnoxiously creepy. It's so creepy that it's a wonder most Norse children didn't die from heart attacks when they began to understand that a psychopathic god was going to turn into smoke and come down their chimney.

Still, kids would leave their boots next to the fire and then cower in terrified anticipation, and if Odin was feeling generous he would fill their boots with candy and toys. If you thought it couldn't get creepier than those German gift-givers, well, it could and it definitely did.

Once in America, all these different versions of Saint Nicholas mingled and popularized until one day in when Washington Irving decided to put a sort of merged version of them into a book called Knickerbocker's History of New York. The story was the first to portray St. Nicholas in a flying wagon, delivering presents only to well-behaved kids.

Everyone else got a switch. Nicholas a new name: Sante Claus. In this portrayal, Sante Claus came from the north in a sled pulled by a single reindeer, and he arrived on Christmas Eve. He also brought only toys that weren't annoying, which meant no drums or toy pistols, and presumably nothing that comes in impenetrable plastic bubbles that can only be breached with a large steak knife with millions of twist ties that have to be individually undone while the gift recipient whines with righteous impatience.

The good old days. According to Business Insider , Santa Claus as we know him arrived in , a fully fleshed-out amalgamation of St.

In "Twas The Night Before Christmas," which is still a traditional Christmas Eve read for families all over the world, Santa was portrayed as a rotund, "jolly old elf" who arrived in a flying sled pulled by not one but eight reindeer. Well, we had some rebuttals, but figured it would be a waste of time.

Who Was Saint Nicholas?

For all I know the kids still believe in Santa — I mean why look a gift horse in the mouth, right? The fact is that there are so many parts of modern society that exist only because enough people believe in them — schools, libraries, the arts only begins to scratch the surface. As such, starting life with a belief in something or someone that is generous and selfless and brings joy to children everywhere seems like a great first step.

She had been told by a classmate that there was no such thing as Santa Claus and came home on a mission. No way. I already know! What about the Easter Bunny? Are they real? Why did you lie? Tough kid. Love her to death. We did not have a real fireplace in our first home so we had to explain to the kids that not everybody has fireplaces and therefore Santa Claus found other ways to sneak into the houses. My wife and I made cookies, left crumbs, stuffed presents under tree late at night, hung stockings, and loved doing this for them.

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Whenever the question came up about the existence of Santa Claus, we talked about it being a belief, and part of the magic of this story is that you must believe. We kind of just knew there was a point where the kids did not believe anymore but they never challenged us, and we never came out and said anything about it. If I am lucky enough to have grandchildren, I know I will continue to do whatever I can to maintain the magic of this holiday. My daughters are now 13 and I think the stages go like this: They believe [until age six].

United Kingdom — Father Christmas

Now that they clearly know, we still have fun with it. We buy cookies for Santa together. The best part today is writing them a Christmas letter from Santa. It is a fun way to let them know how much I love them. He wants to play Santa himself, too, and donate some toys to a day care center for homeless children. I think a part of him will always believe in Santa, but he's also finding more mature ways to express the Christmas spirit.

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ISBN 13: 9781492862178

Parenting Feature Stories. Every holiday season for the last three years, my nine-year-old son Justin has asked me straight out if there is a Santa Claus. Every time I say no. But every year he still wants to sit on Santa's lap -- the "real" Santa, that is, the one at the mall with the best decorations, not those impostors at the other malls. And he delights at finding a few of Rudolph's stray sleigh bells in the fireplace on Christmas morning.