Funny Santa Pics Biography
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Forget Brad and Britney. The biggest celebrity of them all is Santa Claus! Here’s the scoop on the jolly man in red …
The fat jolly man who delivers toys to all the good children in the world in just one night is known by different names in different countries. English-speakers mostly refer to him as Santa Claus or Father Christmas. The name Santa Claus actually comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas or Sint Nicolaas.
Saint Nicholas was born in the third century in a part of Greece that’s now Turkey. His life was devoted to helping the sick and the needy, especially children. Eventually he became the bishop of the city of Myra, which no longer exists. He died on December 6 - the day was dedicated to him.
From the 13th century on it became common custom for bishops to hand out small gifts to kids on December 6. In many countries, December 6 is still the day on which gifts are exchanged.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that the spirit of Christmas became personified in the shape of a fat, bearded man dressed in green fur-lined robes – this gave rise to the figure of Father Christmas (also known as Sir Christmas or Lord Christmas). But this guy wasn’t (yet) associated with riding around in a sleigh and giving gifts to children.
It was in North America that the modern image of Santa Claus was born, as all the separate stories and myths about Christmas were merged by the early colonists to the United States. In 1809 Washington Irving translated Sinterklaas to Santa Claus in his History of New York. This figure was given further shape by the classic poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas, which is known today as The Night Before Christmas, published in a New York newspaper in 1823. (The same poem gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus’s reindeer.)
It’s a huge myth that the Coca-Cola company’s famous Christmas ad campaigns in the 1930s first introduced Santa Claus’s red costume. This tradition actually started in 1885 when a Christmas card designed by Louis Prang in Boston went on sale.
This American name for the Christmas gift-bringer is increasingly used in England, generally in the shortened form ‘Santa’. Early American settlers, being Puritans, rejected the English Father Christmas, but later Dutch immigrants brought traditions about St Nicholas, popularized through a poem by Clement Clark Moore, ‘The Visit of Saint Nicholas’ (1822), now more usually called ‘The Night Before Christmas’. Moore describes the saint not as a bishop in a red cope, as in Holland, but as a fat man dressed in fur, driving a reindeer sleigh. He may well have been aware that in many European traditions, notably in Germany, St Nicholas is accompanied by fur-clad or gnome-like servants who carry presents for good children, but a birch for bad ones; such images might seem more appealing than a saint in religious garb. Illustrating Moore's poem in the 1860s, Thomas Nast used the colloquial Dutch ‘Santa Claus’ rather than the formal ‘St Nicholas’, and dressed him in a belted jacket and furry cap.
During the rest of the 19th century, Santa was often shown in a red jacket but with blue knickerbockers, as befits a Dutchman; in the 20th century, an all-red outfit with white trimmings became the norm, especially after a Coca-Cola advertising campaign exploited his figure in 1931. The artist, the Swede Haddon Sundblom, also gave him a drooping tassled red cap like those associated with elves and gnomes; he may have been thinking of a Swedish Christmas gnome. Scandinavian influence also accounts for the elfin assistants often mentioned, and the home at the North Pole. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer dates from 1949, in a song by Johnny Marks.
The name apparently reached England in the 1870s, to the puzzlement of observers, though the hanging-up of stockings was already an ‘old’ custom, at any rate in the northern countries (Henderson, 1866: 50). The first mention of the gift-bringer's name which we have traced is a letter to N&Q (5s:11 (1879), 66), where a Mr Edwin Lees says he has ‘only lately been told’ of a custom currently observed in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Devonshire, which he has not seen recorded anywhere:
On Christmas Eve, when the inmates of a house in the country retire to bed, all those desirous of a present place a stocking outside the door of their bedroom, with the expectation that some mythical being called Santiclaus will fill the stocking or place something within it before morning. This is of course well known, and the master of the house does in reality place a Christmas gift secretly in each stocking; but the giggling girls in the morning, when bringing down their presents, affect to say that Santiclaus visited and filled the stockings in the night. From what region of the earth or air this benevolent Santiclaus takes flight I have not been able to ascertain.