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Who is Santa Claus?

Santa Claus has a variety of different names in different languages, but they all refer to the person of St. Nicholas who was born many centuries ago in the 4th century (born c 245 AD, and died c350 AD, various sources list various dates) in Lycia, Anatolia, a province on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (present day Turkey). He was born in Patara, a seaport, and traveled. St. Nicholas became a bishop of the church at Myra. Few documents exist which mention him, however legends of his generosity exist throughout most churches. Thousands of churches in the Middle Ages were dedicated to him.

St. Nicholas performed a number of miracles, all associated with gift giving. His feast day was December 6, so think of St. Nicholas on December 6th and December 25th.

In 1823, Clement C. Moore (see below) wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas', which showed Santa Claus driving a sleight drawn by "eight tiny reindeer" and in doing so he created an image we all have today. Thomas Nast (see below) drew Santa Claus based on Moore's description cementing in this image.

What is a legend of St. Nicholas?

There are many legends of St. Nicholas, but this is the most famous legend and it includes elements of today's Santa:

A nobleman who lived with his three daughters had fallen on hard times. The daughters had no chance of marriage, since their father could not pay their dowries.

One night, St. Nicholas threw a sack of gold through a window of the nobleman's shabby castle, which was enough for one daughter's marriage. The next night, he tossed another sack of gold through the window for the second daughter.

But on the third night, the window was closed. So, St. Nicholas climbed onto the roof and dropped the sack down the chimney. The next morning, the daughters found the gold in the stockings they had hung to dry by the fireplace.

Hence leaving the stockings out for Santa Claus.

What other names is Santa Claus or Father Christmas known by?

Weihnachtsmann in Germany for "Christmas man"

Kris Kringle from the southern Germany Christkindle, meaning "Christ child." This mutated in some areas of the world into a name for Santa Claus.

Pere Noel in France

Papa Noel in many Spanish speaking countries

Sinter Claus (or Sinterklaas, Sinte Klaas) in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (now New York City)

Other variations of his name range from Sant Nikolaas to Sante Klaas

The Italian Befana is a similar figure as is Russia's grandmotherly Babouschka.

Denmark he's called "Julemanden" ("Christmas Man")

Joulupukki ("Yule Buck"), evolved from the "Christmas Goat" used to frighten children in Finland. Korvatunturi (Mount Ear, near Polar Circle) is often portrayed as his home. The children see Santa and he asks if they have been good.

Nicholas of Bari

Nicholas of Myra

What is Mrs. Claus' first name?

Mrs. Claus' full name is Jessica Mary Claus. Her mother picked her middle name after the mother of Jesus.

Is St. Nicholas patron saint of anyone?

Yes! Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia, of children, and of sailors. He also has been patron saint of Moscow, Greece, prisoners, bakers, pawnbrokers, shopkeepers and wolves.


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