It would appear that the template for Santa Claus was a 4th century Christian bishop called Saint Nicholas of Myra. Myra was then part of the Byzantine Empire situated in, what is now, Turkey. What connects him to our modern figure is his generosity to the poor in the form of gifts. The key story that caused him to be remembered was his gift of wedding dowries to three impoverished sisters, which saved them from the only other life open to poor, unwedded girls of the time: prostitution. His name and fame filtered into Europe over the centuries and he was particularly revered in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Germany. We shall see later that the Dutch brought him to America in the 17th century. Their spelling of his name: Sinterklaas, is the ancestor of our Santa Claus.
Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – sometimes with spectacles- wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots. This image became popular in North America in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement C Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast.
We all know that Santa lives in the North Pole and his elves help make all the toys for the good little girls and boys. On Christmas Eve, he gets a belly full of cookies and milk when he slides down every chimney with a bag full of gifts. I still can’t figure out how he’s able to fit in the chimney, but that’s just me and my misgivings.
I write the First Ladies Mystery series where Historical characters make Modern history. Here’s the links to my website and blog where you can read all about my series and learn about the history of events and our First Ladies.
Info for this blog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/santa_claus