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Many people say that at one time Santa Claus did indeed exist. There is no obvious way of knowing for sure, but if history is accurate, then they are right. Many of the things we know about Santa are supposedly based on truths including his eight reindeer and his elves. Read on to find out what the real Santa was like and how some of the myths relating to him began.
The original Santa Claus was thought to be St. Nicholas of Myra, a wealthy bishop who was born in the year 280 in an ancient town called Lycia located in the country that is now known as Turkey. Besides being wealthy, he was also very generous. He would travel the country helping people, especially children, by giving them monetary gifts and other presents. He was very secretive about his gift giving therefore he would deliver them late at night when he was less likely to be seen. For this reason, parents would send their children to bed early telling them that St. Nicholas would not come if they were not asleep.
Legend has it that there was a poor man whose wife had died leaving him with three daughters. He had no money to give as a dowry so that his daughters could be married. One night his daughters had washed their stockings and left them by the fire to dry. When they woke the next morning, they each found a bag of gold in their stockings. St. Nicholas had left enough money for each of them to get married thus keeping them from becoming prostitutes. From that point forward, children would hang their stockings by the fire in hopes that St. Nicholas would visit them too. It has become a well-known Christmas tradition in many countries.
St. Nicholas was a kind hearted, generous person who was beloved by all. Eventually, he became the patron saint of children, sailors, Russia and Greece. Many churches were named after him and by the year 800 the Catholic Church officially dubbed him a saint. He even had a day named after him. France actually declared December 6 as Bishop Nicholas Day.
Over the years, the name and appearance of St. Nicholas has changed many times. He is known by many different names such Sinter Klass (Dutch), Father Christmas (British), or Santa Claus (American). In different cultures, he has also been seen wearing different outfits. In European countries, he was said to have worn a bishop’s cloak with the traditional mitre (the hat worn by bishops on special occasions). Father Christmas was said to have worn a long, green, fur lined robe. The Santa Claus that we know and love in America wears a red suite lined with white fur and a matching hat.
The story of how Santa acquired his the elves is rather interesting. Originally, Santa only had one helper, and it was not an elf. It is told that he freed a young Ethiopian slave boy from a market in Myra and because the boy was so grateful to him, he chose to stay with Santa as his helper. It was not until 1945 that Santa had more than one helper. It was decided that while one helper was fun, several helpers would be more fun. Eventually, the story somehow changed to portray these helpers as the elves that we associate with Santa today.
Santa Claus’s eight tiny reindeer are more fiction than fact, although we do know how that myth was started. A company called The Lomen Company in the late 1800’s started it. The company was hosting a commercial campaign to promote reindeer herding in Alaska. The campaign showed several Sami, reindeer herders from Norway, each leading a sled with a Santa Claus on it being pulled by a single reindeer. The Alaska coldness combined with the Reindeer campaign made way for the traditional eight flying reindeer that we now associate with Santa.
While we would all like to believe that a character such as Santa still exists today, it is extremely unlikely. The closest things we have to the original Santa (St. Nicholas) in this day and age are the different charities that make sure that children who are poor have presents under their trees on Christmas morning. Regardless of whether it is fact or fiction, the story of Santa Claus always evokes the Christmas spirit in most of us during the holiday season.
write by morris