Where Did Santa Claus Come From? by Barbara Schlichting


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.

Barb’s Books    First Lady blog


Info for this blog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/santa_claus






11 thoughts on “Where Did Santa Claus Come From? by Barbara Schlichting

  1. Very interesting. And since I have Dutch Ancestors who came over in the 1620’s, perhaps some of my relatives helped bring Santa over! I didn’t know many of these facts and enjoyed learning them. And an appropriate blog since Santa is due in about 36 hours as I write this.
    Merry Christmas and may Santa be good to you!


  2. That was great post, Barbara. I hadn’t come across St. Nicholas of Myra but I do remember how excited the Dutch kids were when I lived in Holland. They eagerly waited for a visit from Sinterklaas on the 5th December when he sailed up from Spain to give out gifts to the young kids. In the village where I lived in 1980, it seemed to be the thing for a bundle of neighbours to get together and congregate in one house where Sinterklaas paid a visit. And he did come with his big sack of toys and wearing his bishops hat and red coat etc. He was also accompanied by his black faced helper(s) who were called ‘Zwarte Piet’ – traditionally black because of the soot in the chimneys. My Fiona was too young at less than 3 to remember it, but she did sit on Sinterklaas’ knee.


  3. I love the story of St. Nicholas and Santa, and I love how people are so giving during this time of year — wish the “cheer” and “good tidings” could spill over more into other seasons. I dropped off some food donations to one of our local food banks earlier today, and there were at least 12 people waiting for food baskets (don’t know how many had been there earlier and even yesterday). Hope “Santa” is able to fill stomachs as well as stockings for the needy families in our nation and throughout the world. Merry Christmas, Barbara — thanks for sharing the history of Santa Claus.


  4. When an elementary school kid in Southern California in the late ’50s and early ’60s, I can remember leaving cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve before heading off to bed. I know I could never get to sleep. Too wound up waiting for the morning to happen. I loved Christmas back then, and still do.


  5. Interesting post, Barbara. I had heard some of this, I think, years ago, but had forgotten the origin of Santa. It seems that along the way he picked up some mystical characteristics and has provided many the happy memory for children along the way.


  6. Thanks for sharing this interesting bit of history. It seems that throughout history one detail ( the while beard}) has remained. As for how he manages to get down the chimney tI think that part of the story is still evolving. Thanks for sharing


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