Santa Claus: Fascinating Facts About St. Nick

Santa-ClausSanta, his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer have been dancing across rooftops for as long as we can remember. The legend and traditions of Santa Claus are here to stay, but what do we really know about the man behind the beard? Here are 7 fascinating facts about St. Nick you might not know.

Sleepy Hollow Dutch-American writer and author of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving, is credited with the idea of Santa flying in a wagon and using chimneys as chutes to enter homes and deliver gifts to children. He published his idea in the book Knickerbocker’s History of New York in 1809.

Santa, Illustrated The Santa we know today is largely the result of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (or “The Night Before Christmas”) by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. This is where he got his “belly like a bowl full of jelly,” his beard and his rosy nose and cheeks. It’s also when we were introduced to Dasher, Dancer, Cupid, Vixen, Prancer, Comet, Donner, and Blitzen.

Santa-ClausReindeer Wrangler According to, the idea of Santa’s reindeer took off when a Minnesota man developed a marketing campaign to use reindeer for their meat! It started with a Christmas parade led by Santa and his reindeer.

The Red Suit The St. Nicholas Clement Clarke Moore wrote about only describes having a fur suit and most of the images created of Santa before the 1920s had Santa dressed in whatever color the artist felt like using. But in the early 20th century, red started becoming part of Santa’s outfit. Around 1931, red allegedly became Santa’s signature color when  a soda company with a killer marketing team dressed Santa in its signature shade of red in their Christmas campaign that was reprised for decades. The company may not have created the iconic ensemble, but the marketing efforts didn’t hurt his image as the man in the red suit.

Presents! We know Santa brings children presents, but he didn’t start off delivering gifts to every child around the world. According to historian Gerry Bowler, the idea of doling out dolls and toys to kids evolved from some rather gruesome stories. One was about three sisters who were to be sold into slavery to pay off their father’s debt. Santa delivered bags of gold to their father to relieve his debt and free the girls. This certainly improved St. Nick’s chances at solidifying his title as the patron saint of children and bringer of gifts.

Santa-ClausSaint Who? The names “St. Nicholas” and “Santa Claus” are used interchangeably. St. Nicholas was a real person — a monk who was known for his charity work — so how did we come up with Santa Claus from St. Nick? Santa Claus is likely derived from “Sinter Klaas” which is Dutch for St. Nick.

Arctic Home Saint Nicholas was from a town near modern day Turkey which is a long way from The North Pole where we’ve been taught Santa lives. It’s not clear how he arrived in the Arctic Circle, but, according Jeremy Seal in his book Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, it was a poet, George P. Webster, who designated The North Pole as Santa’s home. Webster’s poem accompanied by illustrations of Santa by Thomas Nast in the late 1800s.  

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