Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Invention of Santa Claus

American children assume that Santa Claus is timeless and was always present in his current form, bringing gifts to those youngsters who are "good" on Christmas Eve. They do not realize that Santa Claus and all of the details about his life evolved in the 19th century during the Victorian era, the same time period that saw trees being brought into the house and decorated with candles for the first time due to Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert.

"Santa Claus and Birdhouse" quilt made by Patricia Cummings in 1995
from a pattern by Jan Kornfeind

Cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with providing a popular depiction of Santa in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863, during the Civil War. He was the first to show Santa in a red outfit, not the beige one previously popular. The idea that Santa lives at the North Pole can be directly attributed to a poem by George P. Webster titled "Santa Claus and His Works." A mid-19th century poem by Katharine Lee Bates adds a Mrs. Claus in her work "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride."
("Goody" comes from "Good Wife," a common early term).

The idea of St. Nicholas bringing toys in his sleigh can be linked to a poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known as "The Night Before Christmas," published on December 23, 1823 in the Sentinel newspaper in Troy, NY.

The history of St. Nick, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Sinterklass is deeply entrenched in European traditions. One can read more at:

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