Old Saint Nick is a traditional visitor to many people around the world. A kindly soul known around the world by many different names he is a figure widely known for bringing joy to the Christmas holidays.
He arrives bearing with him toys and treats for children and the poor. You may know him as Santa Claus, a plump jolly man dressed in red who rides a gift laden sleigh towed through the air by eight small reindeer. But there is much more to this jolly old fellow than first meets the eye.
Which area of the world you live in will determine not only the name that you refer to him but also how this kindly man will look to you.
There are a number of different images throughout the world for our dear old Santa.
Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santa, or Saint Nicholas this is the tale of grand old St. Nick.
Yes, Santa is Indeed Real
It may surprise you to know that Saint Nicholas was indeed an actual man. He was born in Myra Asia Minor (now an area of Demre turkey). Born into a wealthy Christian family Nicholas took these deeply religious principles as his own.
He was still young when his parents perished leaving him to be taken in by an uncle, the current bishop of Patara. Later he would be ordained into the ministry as a priest and later to be appointed as bishop.
He lived from his birth on March 15th 270 AD till his death on the December 6th 343 AD. It was his generous spirit which was to later earn him the title of saint. He is widely recognized as the Saint of sailors, children, students, and merchants.
In his homeland and throughout other areas where the Orthodox religion is celebrated he is honored on December 6th. It is a day in memory of Saint Nicholas and one of gifting to those less fortunate.
The spirit of this kindly Saint lives on within our generosity. In our modern day the Christmas holiday is also recognized as a day of giving to family and friends.
Saint Nicholas is Well Known Throughout Much of the World
Santa has more than a few aliases that he goes by. In the United States and Canada we refer to this jolly gentleman as Santa Claus. His image is of a chubby fellow with a long white beard and dressed in a red suit topped off by a hat of red and a coal black pair of boots.
He is a figure that brings joy to the holiday season and into the hearts of those that he encounters. With a deep hearty laugh he is a man who believes very deeply in the spirit of giving. We were gifted this image of Saint Nicholas by the Dutch who when immigrating to the United States carried with them the legend of Sinter Klaas which was translated into our language as Santa Claus.
The Dutch version of Santa depicted him riding in on a horse but that was to change. In 1823 with the publishing of the poem The Night Before Christmas our image of Saint Nicholas is created. Depicted as an elf like little man bearing gifts, riding in on a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, and exiting our homes through the chimney it is the image of Santa Claus that we now know in the west.
He has grown a little taller, slimmer, and chubbier throughout the years but Santa still spends his days at his home in the North Pole building toys for good little girls and boys. He saddles up his team of magical flying reindeer on Christmas eve to deliver his cargo of treats and toys. On this night grand old St. Nicholas flies around the world gifting away the presents that he has acquired throughout the year.
The Night Before Christmas by Perry Como
He Waits for the Family to be Fast Asleep Christmas Eve
Santa's Name May Change Based on Your Language or Country
In the United Kingdom Santa Claus is usually referred to as Father Christmas. In Brazil Santa Claus is called Papai Noel, in China he is Shengdan Laoren, in Hawaii he is Kanakaloka, and in Holland he is known as De Kerstman. The country and language that you speak will indeed change the name that Santa Claus in known by as he passes through your homeland.
In Japan Santa Claus is known as Hoteiosho, while in Morocco he is Black Peter, and in Finland he is Joulupukki. The French speaking people refer to Santa as Pere Noel.
In Italy Saint Nicholas is referred to as San Niccolo, while in other countries known by variations of the name Saint Nicolas. Another name for Santa Claus is Old Saint Nick which is a very appropriate one for he is indeed a saint.
Although this well rounded male figure may go by many names, there is one fact that cannot be denied and this is that most people the world around look forward to his arrival during the holidays. He is a generous Saint who passes through our lands with a kindly hand.
Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey
Each Land has Their Own Version of This Generous Man
The Name Kris Kringle Came to us From Germany
The bearer of gifts in Germany was traditionally not a Santa like figure at all, their gratuities were given by the Christkindl or Christ Child which in misinterpretation became Kris Kringle. Kris Kringle is our western translation of the German Christkindl and not a name that is used in Germany.
Much like Germany and with a similar tradition and evolution, in Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, and Belgium it is Saint Nicolas who is the big kindly man to appear during the Holiday season. In these faraway lands Santa uses the names Cristkindle, Saint Nicolas, Sinterklaas, De Goede Sinte or The Good Saint. Today you may see a figure known as Weihnachtsmann, Father Christmas, Nicole, or Klaus who is the modern, more western like Santa Claus.
The German image of Santa is different from ours as well. He is often depicted alike that of the revered pope gowned in a rich red robe who appears as a champion of the poor, a gift giver. But this Christmas image of a December 5th visitor has many variants and he may also show as an impish character who threatens to whip bad boys and girls.
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