Santa Claus is legendary figure who is the traditional Patron Saint of Christmas in the United States and other countries, bringing gifts to children.
Santa Claus... Saint Nicholas… Kris Kringle...Old Saint Nick... We see him on advertising posters, in parades, at departments stores...who is this guy and why does he have so many aliases?
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in southwestern modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. As the bishop of Myra he was credited with doing a number of miracles involving sailors and children. After his death this led him to become the patron saint of both groups as well as for unmarried girls.
Over the course of many years, Nicholas's popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.
Eventually, Saint Nicholas's feast day also became associated with December 25th and his connection with Christmas was established. A tradition developed that he would supposedly visit homes on Christmas Eve and children would place nuts, apples, sweets and other items around the house to welcome him. As the reformation took a hold of much of Europe, however, the popularity of St. Nicholas dropped in most Protestant countries, with the exception of Holland where he was referred to as "Sinter Klaas." After this tradition came to the United States, "Sinter Klass" would eventually be corrupted to "Sancte Claus” or Santa Claus."
Santa Claus is said to live at the North Pole with his wife, where he spends the year making toys with the help of his elves. There he receives letters from children asking for Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve he loads his sleigh with toys and flies around the world, drawn by eight reindeer, stopping at each child’s house; he slides down the chimney and leaves the gifts, refreshing himself with the milk and cookies left for him by the household’s children.
In fact some people have even suggested that Santa has the technology to manipulate time. By creating an artificial time bubble around his sleigh and his person, he could speed himself up as much as he needed. Again, this is far beyond human technology, but...
However Santa does it, he seems to manage each year to delight millions of children on Christmas morning as he has done for over a century. Perhaps it's just magic.
And here is the stocking stuffers: