One of the most popular icons of the Christmas season is Santa Claus. Santa has many names, and comes in many sizes, but one unifying aspect remain; that of selfless gift-giving. So, with Christmas just around the corner, let’s look at where Santa Claus comes from.
- Saint Nicholas: The only real person on this list, St. Nicholas lived from 270-347. An incredibly kind person, St. Nicholas was known for his penchant for secret gift-giving, such as throwing gold coins into open windows, and down chimneys when the windows were closed. St. Nicholas is the man on which the modern Santa Claus is based, and ironically, is the patron saint of merchants. Some Christians celebrate the Feast Day of St. Nicholas on December 6th, with gift-giving traditions similar to the Christmas holiday.
- Father Christmas: Traditionally, Father Christmas was not associated with gift-giving. However, he was a symbol of good-cheer, and was popular throughout Europe. Father Christmas, similar to many other Christmas traditions, is based on a pagan god, in this case, Woden.
- Kris Kringle: Over the years, Kris Kringle has become synonymous with Santa Claus, but he was originally conceived as an alternative to Santa Claus. In fact, Kris Kringle is derived from Das Christkind, aka Christkindl, meaning “The Christ Child.” That’s right, Kris Kringle is based on the baby Jesus! Martin Luther came up with the idea as a protestant alternative to St. Nicholas. Similar to Santa, Das Christkind delivers toys to children, but rather than an old man, is actually a baby with angel wings.
- Santa Claus: The jolly fat man with the white beard and red suit is actually a product of the mind of cartoonist Thomas Nast. In 1863, Nast drew a cartoon for Harper’s Weekly, which depicted Santa Claus in his modern form. It is also believed that Nast popularized the idea that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. The current image of Santa Claus really took off, though, with the Coca-Cola advertising campaigns of the 1930s which depicted a jolly fat Santa in a red suit.
- Robot Santa: This one is a being from the creators of Futurama. Mom’s Friendly Robot Company created Robot Santa in the year 2801. He has the same responsibilities as Santa Claus, but due to an error in programming, his standards are too high, thus everyone is always naughty. On Christmas Eve, Robot Santa, who lives on Neptune, comes to Earth to terrorize everyone because they’ve been naughty.