Before he became the figure we know today he had a great many adventures right here on earth. He loved children, he hid gifts in stockings, he took risks (once ending up in jail) and he was in the team that drafted the creed still used in churches today.
If you meet someone who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, here are ten things you can say to help that person.
- Santa Claus started as a church leader in Turkey. He was born in the city or Para, in a land know as Lycia, in a region called Asia Minor.
- When he was a young man, he went to Palestine and learned the Christmas Story. He was so devoted to telling people about the carpenter’s baby that when he returned home, he was thrown into prison. He was allowed out when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.
- Some historians believe he was a member of the Council of Nicaea, a group of church people who organised many of the traditions that are still followed in millions of churches around the world. The duties of the team included writing the creed, which starts “I believe in God…”
- Historians believe he died on December 6 in the year AD 345.
- When he became a Saint, the church leaders gave him a special day every year: a day on which he could watch over us, and we could celebrate him. In some countries, that day is Christmas Day, December 25. In other countries, it is Christmas Eve. In still other countries, it is December 6, the anniversary of the day he went to heaven.
- The oldest pictures of him show he wore the sort of clothes you might expect a senior churchman to wear: robes in colours such as gold, or blue, or purple, or white. But he was forgotten outside the church for many years.
- Then, about 200 years ago, more people remembered him. In 1804, the New York Historical Society reminded people that Dutch churchgoers talked about “Sinterklaas”, a bringer of gifts. A writer named Washington Irving in 1812 said he reckoned Saint Niclaus rode through the sky in a wagon. In 1821, a man named William Gilley printed a book that said his transport was pulled by a reindeer.
- The following year, Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem for his children, beginning “Twas the night before Christmas…” This gave more details about his annual visit. The poet believed Saint Niclaus, or Santa Claus, might sneak into houses through their chimney on Christmas Eve.
- Pictures of Santa Claus in the 1800s originally showed him in blue or green or red or purple – but a red-suited man with a white beard became the most popular image for artists. You can’t see saints, so no one knew what colour he really wore.
- In the 1930s, an artist called Haddon Sundblom began to draw a series of pictures for the Coca-Cola Company, showing Santa Claus as a jolly, rosy-cheeked, fat man. There was no TV in those days, and no cartoon movies, so the Coca-Cola Company’s version became the most common image of Saint Niclaus around the world.
This is an excerpt from Nury Vitachi’s The Truth About Santa Claus.