History or Hoax 11: Santa Clause


Caroline Dew, Messenger Reporter, Columnist & Social Media Manager

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, you’ve probably heard about Santa Claus. If you have not heard about him, you have now! Santa Claus is one of the symbols of Christmas – not only in the United States, but throughout the rest of the world. But there’s a constant debate as to whether or not Santa Claus is real. I’ll go ahead and tell you now, he is. So we’re not going to be tackling that in this article. What we will be tackling, is the argument as to what Santa looks like, and what exactly he does. Different parts of the world portray Santa as a different person, wearing different clothes, or even doing different things. If you’re familiar with the Santa that we know and love, you probably associate a red suit, a big round belly, flying reindeer, and white facial hair with him. But is this what Santa Claus really looks like? Does santa really come down our chimneys and leave candy and toys in our stockings, and presents underneath our trees?


The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk by the name of Saint Nicholas. It is thought that he was born around the year 280 near the country of Turkey. He became well known for how kind and nice he was. As a matter of fact, many legends began to surround him. There was even a story about Saint Nicholas that claimed that he saved three poor prostitute women from being sold into slavery by their fathers. As time passed, Saint Nicholas became known as the protector of children. But this is where things often branch off into different ideas of who Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, is.


In different countries throughout the world, Saint Nicholas not only appears differently, but he goes by different names. In China he is called Shengdan Laoren, in England he is known as Father Christmas, in France he is known as Pere Noel, and in Germany he is known as Christindl “Christ Child”. Those are only a few of the different names for Santa. In Roman Catholic areas of Germany, Saint Nicholas still comes as a bishop with a flowing beard and a bishop’s miter and staff. Children must clean their house and polish their shoes in preparation for Saint Nicholas to visit. Children even practice songs and poems for Saint Nicholas, and prepare small gifts to leave for him! In France, saint nicholas arrives on a donkey, and carries his presents with him in a basket. Parents tell stories of the Saint to their children – one of the most popular is that some children were wandering and got lost. They were lured by an evil butcher and salted, but through the intervention of Saint Nicholas, were saved.


Saint Nicholas is different in all countries, and that’s great! It just shows that traditions and culture changes with time. What do you see santa as? Does he come to your house on a donkey, or does he shimmy down your chimney? Does he ride a sleigh behind graceful reindeer, or does he walk? Whether you see Santa as a fat jolly old elf, or as a skinny man with a black beard wearing a wool cap – merry Christmas! And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, then happy holidays!