Everyone’s heard about St. Nicholas- the Turkish Bishop of Myra who was a kind, anonymous bestower of gifts to children every December 5th and the origin of Santa Claus. In the late third and early fourth centuries, he would hand out coins or treats to children. Following his death, he was canonized as the patron saint of children.
1. He also paid the bridle dowries of poor young girls
In addition to giving toys, he was also helping out poor girls who might not otherwise have been able to wed.
2. He’s only gone by that name for about 200 years
St. Nicholas was originally called Sinterklaas in Dutch lore. It wasn’t until a New York City newspaper referred to him as Santa Claus in 1773 that the new name began to take root.
3. He didn’t have reindeer until 1823
That year, Clement Moore’s poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas (’Twas the Night Before Christmas) was published in the Troy, N.Y. Sentinel in winter of 1823. It added a lot more detail to the Santa Claus characteristics that we know today.
4.Washington Irving transformed him into a pipe-smoking chimney climber
In 1809, Irving published A History of New York in which Santa Claus was transformed from being a skinny bishop into a jolly, bearded man.
5. Mrs. Claus wasn’t around until 1849
Until James Rees wrote Mrs. Claus into his short story A Christmas Legend, Santa was living the bachelor life. The concept grew in popularity with several more publications over the years including her in the Santa concept. Katherine Lee Bate’s can be credited with the wide popularization of Mrs. Claus in her 1889 poem Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride– “Goody” being short for “Goodwife” or “Mrs.”.
6. Department store visits by Santa are only 120 years old
In 1890, a man named James Edgar came up with the idea as dressing as Santa as a marketing tool at his small dried goods store in Brockton, Massachusetts. It worked and the tradition was created!
7. Modern Santa’s outfit was created by Coca-Cola
Prior to the late 1800s, Santa wore many different colored robes, but by 1885, artists such as Louis Prang illustrated him as preferring the red suit in Christmas cards. The New York Times wrote an article about it in 1927 and in 1931, Haddon Sundblom illustrated him in the red suit in a global Coca-Cola campaign, cementing this fashion choice in the minds of children of all ages.
Turns out that at one point, Santa preferred chicken legs and Coca-Cola over milk and cookies. Who knew?