Written by Naina Singh, a grade 6 student
Who was Santa Claus – as in, what are the origins of the jolly old man who comes bearing gifts on Christmas?
Who you know as Santa today didn’t always have that name.
The history goes back to the Roman empire of the 3rd and 4th centuries (yup that was a long time ago). So the story goes that there was a Greek priest with the name Saint Nicholas, who was born in 280 AD. He grew up to become a Bishop, in a town in what is Turkey today.
But what does that have to do with Santa?
Here’s how things happened.
year 303, there took place something called the Great Persecution – a movement against
Christian priests when Bibles were burned and priests were forced
to give up Christianity or killed.
St. Nicholas refuse to accept this and was sent to prison, where he stayed for many years. Then a Roman emperor called Constantine ended the persecution and freed him.
St. Nicholas became famous for defending the Church and for protecting children. There is a famous story about how he helped a girl. It goes something like this.
One day, Saint Nicholas was passing by a house when all of a sudden he heard some crying inside. A father was going to sell one of his daughters, in order to get food and water for the other two daughters. Saint Nicholas felt awfully bad and dropped a bag of gold from the chimney of that house – which he wanted the father to use for marrying his daughters instead of selling them into slavery. He apparently did this for a few days, until he got caught by the owner of that house, who was incredibly grateful to Saint Nicholas. St. Nicholas became famous all over for being a protector of children and of sailors.
There is another story where St. Nicholas brought back three boys to life – who had been killed by someone. He was hence called the patron saint of children.
His fame spread all over and he became known as a saint who brought gifts. Then when immigrants from Europe went to new world colonies like America, they carried tales of him. They spoke about Sinterklaas, which is St. Nicholas’s name in Dutch. And that’s the origin (in part) of the word Santa Clau
- Saint Nicholas Day, also called the Feast of Saint Nicholas, is celebrated on 6 December in some Western Christian countries, and on 19 December in Eastern Christian countries – based on the old church Calendar.
- On this day children wait for St. Nicholas to come and to put a present under their pillows (as long as they’ve not been naughty during the year!). Children who have not been good can get a twig or a piece of coal under their pillows!
- The American Santa Claus is derived (in part) from the Dutch Sinterklaas, which is St. Nicholas’s name in that language. But, in America, the gift-giving takes place on Christmas Day rather than Saint Nicholas Day.
- The first time there was a mention of Santa Claus as we know him today was in a poem in 1823 called, The Night Before Christmas.
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