That fat man in a red suit has more than presents. He has a backstory that will make you go hoho… hain?
What You Know: Santa Claus was born in America.
What You Don’t: The character has evolved from the 4th century Saint Nicholas, a bishop in what is now Turkey. He performed several miracles for children and had his feast day on December 6. When Pope Julius I fixed the date for the birth of Christ as December 25, the public sort of combined both holidays. Families with children would leave goodies in their homes to greet his spirit. In Holland, they called him Sinter Klaas, which in America eventually got corrupted to Santa Claus.
What You Know: He’s always been a fat, happy fellow, in a white-trimmed red suit, ruddy cheeked and a bit… curvy.
What You Don’t: Until 1931, Santa had been portrayed as a tall, gaunt man, a spooky-looking elf and everything in between. He wore robes and even animal skin.
What You Know: There’s some connection to Coca-Cola.
What You Don’t: The modern-day avatar comes from Coca-Cola’s Christmas ad from 1930, depicting him in a crowded department store, drinking the soda. The ads ran in popular magazines. The figure seemed warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human, and of course, dressed in red. Coke ads would later show him reading letters from kids, visiting homes, delivering toys, raiding fridges for snacks and of course, chugging cola.
What You Know: Santa has a fleet of reindeer, elf helpers and enters homes through chimneys.
What You Don’t: It’s all drawn from Clement Moore’s 1822 poem, A Visit from St Nicholas. The poem draws from European, Scandinavian and old American lore and pretty much mixes them all up to rhyme.
What You Know: Everyone loves Santa.
What You Don’t: The Russians didn’t. When the Soviet Union was formed, the communists abolished Christmas. Santa’s local counterpart, Grandfather Frost, was resurrected only in the 1930s (in a blue coat, as a New Year gift-giver), when Stalin needed public support. Even today, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria, and Latin America see Santa as a threat to local gifting customs and avoid the American depiction.
What You Know: Santa Claus is not real.
What You Don’t: He is totally real! In the very real city of North Pole in Alaska, USA, a very real man named Santa Claus was elected to the city council this year. Locals says he’s a jolly old fellow.
From HT Brunch, December 20
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