SANTA CLAUS

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The Man Be­hind the Story of Santa Claus:

The leg­end of Santa Claus, also known as Fa­ther Christ­mas can be traced back hun­dreds of years to a monk named St. Ni­cholas. He was born to a Greek fam­ily some­time around 280 A.D. in the city of Patara (Ly­cia et Pam­phylia), a port on the Mediter­ranean Sea. He lived in a place called Myra, Ly­cia (part of mod­ern-day Demre, Turkey). He was a very rich man and had a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and was fa­mous for his gen­er­ous gifts to the poor. One of the best known St. Ni­cholas sto­ries is that he saved three im­pov­er­ished daugh­ters of a pi­ous Chris­tian from be­ing sold into slav­ery by pro­vid­ing them with a dowry so that they could be mar­ried. An­other story tells of him help­ing few sailors who were caught in a dread­ful storm off the coast of Turkey. He de­vel­oped such a good rep­u­ta­tion in his re­gion that he was cho­sen as Bishop of Myra. St. Ni­cholas was ex­iled from Myra and was later cast into prison dur­ing the per­se­cu­tion by Em­peror Dio­cle­tian. He was later re­leased af­ter the ac­ces­sion of Em­peror Con­stan­tine. He died on 6th De­cem­ber in ei­ther 345 A.D. or 352 A.D. Be­cause of his kind­ness Ni­cholas was made a Saint. His feast day (an an­nual reli­gious cel­e­bra­tion, a day ded­i­cated to a par­tic­u­lar saint) is cel­e­brated on the an­niver­sary of his death, i.e. on 6th of De­cem­ber. St. Ni­cholas’s pop­u­lar­ity spread and he be­came the pa­tron saint of chil­dren and sailors. Even to­day, on ev­ery 6th De­cem­ber, the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathe­dral out to sea, pray­ing for their safe voy­ages through­out the year.

How St. Ni­cholas be­came the tra­di­tional model of Santa Claus:

Af­ter the Protes­tant ref­or­ma­tion, by the 16th Cen­tury, the sto­ries and tra­di­tions about St. Ni­cholas be­came un­pop­u­lar in north­ern Europe. By the Re­nais­sance, St. Ni­cholas was the most pop­u­lar saint in Europe. The name Santa Claus evolved from Saint Ni­cholas’ Dutch nick­name, ‘Sin­ter Klaas’ which is a short­ened form of ‘Sint Niko­laas’. In Eng­land, he be­came known as 'Fa­ther Christ­mas' or 'Old Man Christ­mas', an old char­ac­ter from sto­ries and plays dur­ing the mid­dle ages in the United King­dom. To­wards the end of the 18th cen­tury, St. Ni­cholas made his first in­roads into the Amer­i­can cul­ture. In 1823 the fa­mous poem 'T'was the Night be­fore Christ­mas', was pub­lished by Dr Cle­ment Clarke Moore. This poem de­scribes St. Ni­cholas with a ‘chubby-plump’ ap­pear­ance and with eight rein­deer. On Jan­uary 1st 1881, cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to cre­ate the most fa­mous im­age of Santa Claus. His car­toon, which ap­peared in Harper’s Weekly, de­picted Santa as a cheer­ful man with a big red belly, an arm full of toys and smok­ing a pipe. It was Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole work­shop, elves, etc. This helped pop­u­lar­ize the now-fa­mil­iar im­age of a Santa Claus. The im­age of Santa Claus helps us to re­mem­ber St. Ni­cholas, who de­voted his life to serve the God and in­spired oth­ers to do the same.

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