The Many Names of Santa Claus

By | Dec 5, 2011

As tradition goes, at least in the United States, Santa Claus, a jolly old elf in a red suit riding a sleigh pulled by 8 (or 9 with Rudolf) reindeer, comes from the North Pole traveling across the world delivering toys to all the good boy and girls.

Our vision of Santa Claus comes from many different places and times. There are the Coke Santa’s of the early 20th Century, the 19th century drawings of Thomas Nast and the classic poem by Clement Moore. Moore’s version may have been developed from the Dutch Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas is a traditional Winter holiday figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Suriname and Netherlands Antilles. December 5th is Saint Nicholas’ Eve and is the chief occasion for gift-giving. Sinterklass is the gift giver.

The Saint Nicholas Feast is for Saint Nicholas (280–342). He is patron saint of children and sailors. Nicholas lived in what is present day Turkey and he is said to do secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

Then there is the English Father Christmas. Father Christmas is a symbolic figure associated with Christmas and the season’s spirit of good cheer. A similar figure with the same name exists in several other countries, including France (Père Noël) Spain (Papá Noel), Malta (il-Krismis Fader), Portugal (Pai Natal), Italy (Babbo Natale) and Romania (Moş Crăciun)

Even though not called Father Christmas, the Ghost of Christmas Present from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, fits the description. The Ghost is a spirit of good cheer and is a great genial man in a green coat lined with fur.

No matter the name, he is a great spirit of Christmas for many from Children from the ages of 2 to 102.


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