For children, the whole concept of Christmas revolves around the legendary Santa Claus, who in his red suit with white fur trimmings, will come with a sack full of gifts and put them in a sock or a stocking.
Well, Santa is an important figure and we know this because millions of children around the globe wait patiently for him to come with gifts all the way from the North Pole.
The question here is, who is Santa Claus really? Is Santa just an imaginative figure or is he inspired from a real-life person? We are about to find out in this article titled 50 interesting Santa Claus facts.
Santa Claus Facts: 1-5
1. There was a man named Saint Nicholas who was born c. 270 AD in a place called Patara that was located close to Myra, which is a town in a country we call Turkey.
2. As per legends, Saint Nicholas was a man with a big heart who gave away all the fortunes he inherited to the poor people. It is said that he traveled across the countryside and gave away his wealth to anyone who was in dire need of the same.
3. One of the most legendary acts of kindness of Saint Nicholas was that of saving three sisters from being sold into prostitution. The girls were from a poor family and their father couldn’t afford to get them married, and hence, decided to sell them into prostitution.
It was Saint Nicholas who gave their father enough money to not only get them married but also to pay for the dowries their husbands asked for.
4. And then, during the famine of 311-312 CE, Saint Nicholas spotted a ship docked at Myra port. It was full of wheat and was headed for Constantinople. The Emperor had asked for it. Saint Nicholas approached the sailors of the ship and asked to lend him some wheat.
Unfortunately, the sailors declined his request stating that the wheat was for the Emperor and in case the Emperor finds any less than what he demanded, they would be in serious trouble.
5. Saint Nicholas, on hearing this, asked for wheat again and told the sailors that they need not fear the Emperor for when the ruler weighs the wheat there will be absolutely no difference in the expected weight and the actual weight of the total wheat.
The sailors did give Saint Nicholas enough wheat for feeding the whole city of Myra for 2 years straight and left. When the ship reached Constantinople, the wheat was weighed and the Emperor didn’t find any discrepancies in the total weight. So, Saint Nicholas saved the sailors.
Santa Claus Facts: 6-10
6. No wonder, Saint Nicholas soon became popular as savior of children as well as sailors. By Renaissance, the fame of Saint Nicholas spread all over Europe and he was second to none in terms of popularity in the entire Europe.
7. Then followed the Protestant Reformation – a period when veneration was openly discouraged. Still however, there was no decline in Saint Nicholas’ fame. Holland in particular held on to Saint Nicholas’ high reputation.
8. On December 6, 343 CE, Europe lost Saint Nicholas forever. However, Saint Nicholas was immortalized through celebration of his feast day on his death anniversary.
9. Though 6th of December was Saint Nicholas’ death anniversary, people started considering it as a lucky day. The day was considered as a perfect day for getting married or for making large purchases.
10. Well, that was Saint Nicholas but what about Santa Claus? We will come to this, but we need to take a look at Saint Nicholas’ journey. He came to America exactly 1430 years after his death. We don’t really mean he literally arrived because that was not at all possible. He was already dead.
Santa Claus Facts: 11-15
11. What really happened is that in 1773, several Dutch families in New York came together and honored the death anniversary of Saint Nicholas. They repeated the same in 1774. A newspaper picked up the news and made it public.
12. The Dutch people actually came up with a pet name for Saint Nicholas. In Dutch, it was Sint Nikolaas, which was truncated down to and deformed into Sinter Klass. It is from this nickname Sinter Klaas that the name Santa Claus eventually evolved, but not before going through a series of changes.
13. Nothing much happened in between until in 1804 during an annual meeting of the New York Historical Society, Saint Nicholas’ woodcuts were handed over to the members of the society by a society member named John Pintard.
14. The woodcuts those were given had a background image which contained the images of stocking hung over the fireplace and their stockings were full of fruits and toys. That image was somewhat similar to what we generally associate with Santa Claus today.
15. In 1809 came a man by the name Washington Irving who wrote a book titled ‘The History of New York’. In his book Irving stated that Saint Nicholas was New York’s patron saint. That’s it! Sinter Klaas started gaining popularity in American culture but there was a problem.
Santa Claus Facts: 16-20
16. Though Sinter Klaas gradually started gaining popularity, he was actually pictured as a cheeky person who wore a red-colored waist coat, wore yellow stockings and even had a blue hat that was three-cornered.
17. Some others, however, came up with a different picture of a man wearing Flemish trunk hose and a broad-brimmed hat. Well, none of these images really match with today’s Santa. So, there should have been some other changes!
18. Of course some changes happened but over a long period of time. It was in 1822 that a poem was written by the title ‘An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.’ This poem was written by an Episcopal minister known as Clement Clarke Moore.
19. He wrote this poem for his three daughters and the poet had a light and funny vibe. It is because of the nature of the poem that Moore was not very willing to get it published. However it was eventually published and this poem gave birth to the image of Santa Claus that would later get some more modifications to become the popular image we know today.
20. The image of Santa that was derived from Moore’s poem was that of ‘right jolly old elf’. This newly created image of Santa as an elf with a plump figure. Not just that, this elf was also bestowed with this supernatural power of ascending right through a chimney with a simple nod of his head.
Santa Claus Facts: 21-25
21. It is not that Clarke Moore came with a completely original image in his poem. He actually borrowed some concepts from here and there to eventually give the image of the plump elf.
However, it was his work that eventually gave birth to the notion that Santa Claus uses a small sleigh drawn by 8 reindeer to fly across from one house to another and leave gifts for kids.
22. The poem, once published, became an instant hit in America and Americans found a new icon to cherish. However, the image of Santa was yet to be refined. This did not really happen for a long time until in 1881, a man named Thomas Nast came in.
23. Thomas Nast was a political cartoonist. He picked up Moore’s poem and created a whole new image of Santa Claus. Nast drew a cartoon where he created Santa as a cheerful and fat man with a big white beard.
24. Nast did add a sack full of toys on back on this new fat image of Santa. The most interesting change that Nast came up with was that of giving Santa a bright red suit that had white fur trimmings.
25. Thomas threw in a few extras. He gave Santa a separate workshop located at the North Pole where elves work tirelessly to manufacture the toys and gifts for lucky children. He even created a wife for Santa Claus!
Santa Claus Facts: 26-30
26. Moore gave birth to the sleigh with 8 reindeer in 1822. However, we know that there is a 9th reindeer, and in fact, the most famous among all. This 9th one is called Rudolph. However, Rudolph – the 9th reindeer did not come to picture anytime soon.
27. Rudolph actually can more than a 100 years later and was actually a creation of a copywriter named Robert L. May. May worked at the department store of Montgomery Ward. May was given the task of getting new holiday traffic to the store in 1939.
28. With this new task in hand, May ended up writing a story-poem with a Christmas theme. May’s story-poem was titled “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Interestingly, May used the same rhyming pattern as that of Moore.
29. In this story-poem, May described the story of a young reindeer named Rudolph. Rudolph was pictured as an outcast by his kind because he had a large and glowing red nose.
However, there was a good ending for this outcast. It was just the night before Christmas when it weather turned very foggy, creating concerns for Santa Claus that he will fail to deliver the gifts because of the thick fog.
Suddenly Santa noticed Rudolph and his glowing red nose and brought him in to guide the way using the light of his nose. That way, Rudolph saved the night.
30. The story became a hit and Montgomery Ward managed to sell a staggering 2.5 million copies of the story and then in 1946, the story was reissued, selling 3.5 million copies! In 1949, May’s story was picked by his friend Johnny Marks. Marks wrote a song based on Rudolph’s story. This song was sung by Gene Autry. The song too was a big hit and sold 2 million copies. Thus, Rudolph was immortalized and made the famous reindeer of Santa.
Santa Claus Facts: 31-35
31. As we learned earlier that Santa Claus came from Saint Nicholas. According to St. Nicholas Cantata by Benjamin Britten in 1948, when Saint Nicholas was born, what he immediately did was he yelled the words – “God be Glorified.” Okay, that’s fascinating but a newborn yelling words is quite frightening for anyone present nearby – even for the mother we guess!
32. There is a problem with Santa’s reindeer. You see, according to scientific study of reindeer, the males shed their antlers during the winter months. The females however maintain their antlers.
Unfortunately, all of Santa’s reindeer have male names and they all have antlers during the freezing month of December. So are those reindeer male. If yes, how come they keep their antlers during winter? If they are females with male names, Santa seriously has gender identification issues.
33. Saint Nicholas did more miracles than Jesus. One such miracle was the resurrection of three kids. According to a legend, there used to be a seriously twisted butcher who once lured in three kids, killed them, butchered them and put their meat on sale, claiming that it was ham.
34. As the story goes, Saint Nicholas saw the meat immediately recognized that it was not ham but rather human flesh. He immediately resurrected the kids, who later grew up to be vegetarians.
35. There is a different version of the story which states that the butchered meat of the kids was actually pickled by the twisted cannibalistic butcher and put on sale. Saint Nicholas still managed to identify the meat as pickled boys and resurrected them.
Santa Claus Facts: 36-40
36. Resurrection wasn’t the only miracle of Saint Nicholas. Yet another miracle that earned him the title of sailor savior was that of borrowing wheat.
37. It was 311-312 CE famine when Saint Nicholas approached a ship full of wheat (the ship was docked at Myra port) as asked for wheat from the sailors. The sailors refused stating that the wheat was for the Emperor of Constantinople who had asked for a specific weight to be delivered.
38. Saint Nicholas still took the wheat and said to the sailors that the total weight of the wheat will not be reduced during delivery.
St. Nicholas took enough wheat that was used for feeding the whole city of Myra for 2 years in a row and yet when the Emperor of Constantinople measured the weight of the wheat on delivery, there was no change in total weight. The sailors were saved!
39. The 8 flying reindeer of Santa weren’t supposed to be reindeer at all. The Germanic version of Santa was Odin – a Norse God who flew around on an immortal flying warhorse which had 8 legs.
Before Germanic Europe was Christianized, those Germanic people celebrated Yule – an event or celebration of midwinter. It was believed that during those days ghostly occurrences and supernatural phenomena would increase significantly. One such ghostly occurrence was the Wild Hunt that was led by Odin.
40. According to popular belief of those days, Odin was an aged god with a long white beard, wearing a blue hood and a cloak. He would fly around on his terrifying war horse named Sleipnir. It was customary for children to keep food for Odin. Odin would take the food and place treats and candies there for the kids.
Santa Claus Facts: 41-45
41. In North America, Odin was replaced by Santa and Odin’s fearsome, gray, eight-legged flying horse was traded for flying reindeer. All the credit for this replacement goes to the poem – “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas” by Clement Clark Moore.
42. The Netherlands and Belgium have different legends about Santa Claus. While they refer to Santa as Sinter Klaas, their legend said that Sinter Klass used to keep two lists of nice children and naughty children.
43. As far as gift giving was concerned, Sinter Klaas, according to the legends of both Netherlands and Belgium, had a workshop not in the North Pole but in Spain and he never flew on a reindeer pulled sleigh but used a speed boat to get to these countries from Spain.
44. As of today, children of both countries hold the view that Santa Claus and Sinter Klaas are different and while Sinter Klaas is the good one who gives gifts, Santa Claus is the one who takes the back seat and is not much loved.
45. Before Saint Nicholas or Odin or Santa Claus came to existence, there was the Yule Goat – a magical being popular in Scandinavian countries. The job of this goat was to make sure that all families completed preparations for Yule celebrations.
The goat used to wander around and demanded gifts. Things however turned around as the legends of gift givers during winters started growing in Europe.
Instead of demanding presents, the Yule Goat started bringing presents somewhere in the 19th century. Then when Santa Claus emerged, the Yule Goat was completely lost in oblivion.
Santa Claus Facts: 46-50
46. Santa isn’t just fond of cookies and milk as the popular culture claims. In different countries different types of offerings are made. For instance, Irish people either give milk or famous Guinness in addition to mince pies or Christmas pudding.
47. In countries such as Norway and Sweden, rice porridge is what children leave for Santa. In Australia and Britain, mince pies, beer or sherry are offered to Santa Claus.
48. Though the political cartoonist Thomas Nast gave Santa his red clothes back in 1881, it wasn’t the official fashion for Santa. Back then, Santa’s dress could be of any color such as green, mauve, blue or brown.
The red color became locked as only fashion for Santa in 1931 because of Coca Cola. A massive campaign was launched by the company where the white and the predominant red color of Coke was used for featuring Santa and it remained that way. Santa is pretty commercial you see!
49. There is yet another miracle of Saint Nicholas or Sinter Klaas who inspired Santa Claus. After his death, Saint Nicholas was buried in the same place he was born, i.e. in Myra.
According to legends, his bones released a watery and clear liquid that possessed miraculous powers! Miracle healing bone juice, which smells like rose water is known as myrrh or manna. The bones really didn’t stay in Turkey though!
50. During the Seljuk Turks invasion of the 11th century, Bari and Venice – the two Italian cities wanted to capture the relics to Saint Nicholas both in the name of protecting it from Muslims, and also from the commercial perspective of the pilgrimage site.
The Bari sailors took the first advantage and brought the bones of the saint to Bari in 1087, leaving behind some minor fragments. It is said that those sailors were actually thieves, but some claim that Saint Nicholas came to their vision and personally asked for the bones to be removed.
Later during the first crusade of 1099, the Venetians captured the remaining fragments and took them back to Venice. The bones that reached Bari were entombed and miraculously, the tomb started seeping out the miracle liquid.
According to many scientists, the tomb at Bari is located below sea level and that the clear liquid may be nothing but seawater (that moves into the tomb through capillary action). However, no one really has an explanation about how this clear liquid came out specifically on 6th of December while the relics were located in Myra.