SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Who is this man that we invited into our homes once a year to drop off our gifts?
Must be Santa. Santa, Santa Claus, to borrow a phrase from Hal Moore and William Fredericks’ song “Must Be Santa.”
Most folks know him as Santa Claus but he’s also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica says the image of Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas, a 4th Century Christian Saint.
Saint Nicholas is more than the man in the red suit with a beard of white.
According to the website st.nicholascenter.org, Saint Nicholas was a devout Christian known for helping those in need. He died on Dec. 6 in 346 AD.
The date of his death became a day of celebration for Christians.
But how does a saint transform into a jolly old elf?
Encyclopaedia Britannica and the History Channel’s history.com share a similar story.
Dutch immigrants get the credit for bringing Saint Nicholas to New York City when it was still known as New Amsterdam.
They celebrated Saint Nicholas Day on Dec. 6 in 1773 and 1774 but they called him Sinterklass or Sinter Klass. Jump ahead to 1804 when a woodcarver carved images of Sinter Klass showing the man with gifts and fruit.
The legend and story of Sinter Klass began to grow. In 1823 a poem by Clement Clarke Moore was published. The poem was called “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” And consider it the equivalent of Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album.
Clarke Moore describes Santa Claus in detail and it inspired cartoonist Thomas Nast to draw his image of Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly magazine. Thank Nast for the long white beard, jolly disposition and big sack of toys.
Still, the revered St. Nicholas appears to have had some other influences to get to today’s Santa Claus.
Christkind or Kris Kringle is said to have delivered gifts to well-behaved Swiss and German children at Christmas, according to history.com The names refer to Christ child. Saint Nicholas usually traveled with Christkind or Kris Kringle at Christmas.
He’s called Father Christmas in England and Pere Noel in France.
Santa Claus isn’t a man in Russia or Italy.
He’s called La Befana in Italy. She’s a kind witch who scoots down the chimney to deliver gifts to kids.
Russia’s Babouschka seeks forgiveness by delivering gifts to children in the hopes that one is Jesus. She had given the wise men the wrong directions to visit Jesus at his birth and later, felt bad about that.
But back to Moore and Frederick’s Santa who comes on a special night in his red suit and boots.
The Coca-Cola Company harnessed the popularity of Santa when an artist created an image that has influenced many to follow. Santa is a portly fellow in a red suit trimmed with white fur.
And it’s widely known that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. That is something created by the cartoonist Nast.
While the North Pole is the most frequently cited location of Santa’s workshop, the Smithsonian magazine website says a few other places have claimed to be Santa’s home.
A town named North Pole, New York, has claimed to be the home of Santa Claus. So has Santa Claus, Indiana, but Santa Land in that town is now called Holiday World.
There’s Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland, and Santa Claus House near Fairbanks, Alaska.
Whatever his departure site, Santa Claus is expected to visit millions of homes on Christmas Eve.
To follow his progress, check out this story on KELOLAND’s website https://www.keloland.com/news/holiday/track-santa-claus-on-christmas-eve-with-norad/