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Santa Claus: The True Story

“He sees when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.

He knows when you’ve been bad, or good.

So be good, for goodness sake…”

If you live in the western world, you already know this line from “Santa Claus is Coming

to Town” by Harry Connick Jr.

We’ve all heard the songs and seen the movies, but you may not know the true story behind

the legend of the man who can fly around the world in just a single night.

For over a thousand years, St. Nick has been credited with selflessly leaving presents

to boys and girls out of the goodness of his heart, and he has been bringing the holiday

spirit around the globe for centuries.

He has been known by so many different names over the years- Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle,

Father Christmas, Père Noël...And while all of the variations of the story have changed

over the years, they are all referring to the same man.

Today, on Biographics, we are going to talk about the life and legend of Santa Claus.

The Early Life of St. Nicholas Nicholas of Bari was born in the 4th Century

in the town of Myra, located in Asia Minor.

This is now located modern-day Turkey.

His parents were wealthy Christians who had trouble conceiving a child for years.

They prayed to God every day to have a child of their very own, and as soon as they finally

conceived and gave birth to a son, it truly was a miracle.

Sadly, Nicholas’ parents would die of an epidemic that had spread throughout the city

of Myra, leaving him to become a young orphan.

He was raised by his uncle, who was the Bishop of Myra, and never had children of his own.

He was very proud of his nephew, especially when he grew up to be a very well-behaved

boy.

His uncle apparently announced to everyone in the church that he had a vision that his

nephew would grow up to bring joy to many people.

When Nicholas grew up, his uncle’s prophecy actually did come true.

He was always kind to others, and went out of his way to help people.

As an orphan, Nicholas had a special place in his heart for the children in town, and

he would often help them make handmade toys to play with.

Even though he was from a wealthy family, he still had a lot of sympathy for the poor,

and he wanted to do whatever he could to help.

There was a man in the town who had three beautiful daughters.

But he was so poor, he could not pay for a dowry.

This meant that his daughters could not get married, and they would have to be sold into

slavery, because the father could not afford to support them.

Nicholas wanted to help, but he did not want to hurt the father’s pride by offering a

donation face-to-face.

So he dropped a bag of gold down the chimney, which landed in their stockings that were

hanging up to dry.

The father and his daughters jumped for joy, believing that God had finally answered their

prayers.

He was finally able to pay for the dowry, and his oldest daughter went on to get married.

Nicholas came back to do this again for the two younger daughters, which is when he was

caught in the act.

Everyone knew that this gold wasn’t just appearing out of thin air, and people began

to whisper around town about young Nicholas’ kind heart and generosity.

Nicholas was a very simple person who didn’t need a lot to be happy, and the money didn’t

mean much to him.

But he knew his donations could be life-changing for other families in Myra.

He decided to continue paying attention to who needed the most help in the city, and

he would anonymously give his inheritance away to other people.

After this story spread around town, people began to leave their stockings and shoes by

the fireplace in hopes that they would receive gold from Nicholas, as well.

Soon after this, people throughout the city of Myra were receiving anonymous presents

that would mysteriously appear in their homes.

This sparked a spirit of giving, and neighbors were now helping out one another in their

time of need without fear of hearing their pride.

Any time an anonymous gift would show up, they decided to thank Nicholas, even if he

wasn’t actually the one to deliver every single present.

People in the town began a rumor that since this man seemed to be able to be in many places

at once, he was more than just a devout Christian man.

They believed that he had been blessed with magical powers.

He truly did begin to travel across Turkey, and he reached a point where he had given

away all of his earthly possessions, which was fine by him.

He devoted his life to becoming a monk.

We know with absolute certainty that Nicholas truly was a real person, because he grew up

to take over his uncle’s position as the next Bishop of Myra.

There are records of his participation in the First Council of Nicea, including his

outspoken outrage over the corruption he saw in the Catholic Church.

In one story, Nicholas witnessed a horrific scene where children had been kidnapped, and

he was able to rescue them.

He was seen as such a holy man that he was later canonized as Saint Nicholas, the patron

saint of children, and...surprisingly, sailors.

That’s right, St. Nick loved to travel, even back then.

He learned to sail along the coast of Asia Minor, and dreamed of seeing the entire planet

some day.

For years to come, sailors would continue to pray to Saint Nicholas for help when they

were able to go on a long voyage.

Legend has it that one day, Turkish sailors were out at sea, and the wind and waves were

so strong, the men were afraid that the boat would capsize.

They prayed to Saint Nicholas for help, and he appeared before them, with his arms outstretched.

He was able to control the weather and calm down the ocean, and the sailors made it home

safely.

This was just one of the many examples of the stories told of St. Nick’s extraordinary

magical power.

And it just may be a good explanation of how Santa manages to travel in his sleigh through

all kinds of weather.

The fantastical stories of Saint Nicholas lasted far longer than just one lifetime.

His story continued to go on for another thousand years.

It would seem that the magic behind his generosity was so inspiring and powerful, it was enough

to keep him alive in the hearts of mankind for generations to come.

Santa Inspires a Nation From the 4th to 16th Centuries, Nicholas became

one of the most popular Catholic Saints.

People continued to pray to him, wishing for his help in their time of need.

As time went on, he preferred to receive letters, rather than prayers.

It’s probably much easier for him to keep records this way.

Stories of St. Nick’s magic and generosity began to spread throughout the rest of the

world.

In the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland, children began to leave their shoes outdoors

on St. Nicholas Day so that the jolly “Sinterklaas” could leave them presents.

Sure enough, small toys and candy were left for them when they awoke in the morning.

After the Protestant reformation, Martin Luther wanted to do away with the stories of Catholic

saints, so he said that these presents were actually coming from the baby Jesus, or the

“Christkindl”.

People were confused, of course, because they knew that the real gift-giver was the jolly

old Saint Nick delivering these presents to children.

So “Christkindl” was misunderstood to be “Kris Kringle,” and the nickname stuck.

After the Revolutionary war, there was a movement to reject many of the English ways of life

and start new traditions that were uniquely American.

An author by the name of Washington Irving had already made a name for himself by writing

and publishing American folk tales that had been told by word-of-mouth, like Rip Van Winkle

and the spooky “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, which became a Halloween classic.

So, when he heard about the Dutch story of “Sinterklass”, he decided to officially

give him the properly American-sounding name of “Santa Claus”, and St. Nick officially

became apart of the American Christmas tradition.

Over the next few hundred years, the public would learn more about Santa Claus than they

ever had before.

In 1809, Washington Irving’s book called Knickerbocker’s History of New York, he

wrote about a surprising Santa sighting in Central Park; “The good St. Nicholas came

riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly

presents to children.”

He went on to explain that Santa took a break to smoke his pipe of tobacco before getting

back in his wagon and flying away.

Thankfully, Santa gave up smoking, which is partly why he has extended his life expectancy.

But he replaced it with a serious cookie addiction, so that wasn’t exactly kind on his ever-expanding

waistline.

As the years went on, more and more writers would elaborate with additional details about

Santa Claus.

In December of 1823, a writer named Clement Clark Moore was walking through the snow on

his way home.

Under his arm, he had a Christmas turkey for his family, and looking around at the beautiful

scene, he was suddenly inspired to write a poem titled, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”...But

you probably know it as “The Night Before Christmas.”

“'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with

care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there….”

This became an incredibly popular poem.

It so perfectly captured the Christmas spirit, that in just a few years, nearly every American

knew how to recite it from memory.

Instead of thinking of his time living in Turkey as a 4th Century saint, people now

imagined Santa Claus to be a chubby, jolly old man who climbed through the chimney to

place presents in stockings and leave wrapped under the Christmas tree.

St. Nick had always been a sailor and an avid traveler throughout his lifetime.

Navigating the open sea is no easy task, especially in the tears before the benefits of GPS.

But he wanted to get around on land at a faster pace.

In 1821, an anonymous author wrote and illustrated a story called “Old Santeclaus with Much

Delight”.

For the first time, the public learned that Santa had upgraded his ride from a rickety

old wagon and boat to a proper sled pulled by a single reindeer.

In 1889, poet Katharine Lee Bates introduced the world to Mrs. Claus, and we got to know

a little bit more about St. Nick’s personal life.

We still don’t know exactly when they got married, but this couple have what is probably

the longest lasting marriage in history.

We also don’t know if they ever had any children together.

As the years went on, the public learned more about Santa’s progress in his mission to

bring joy to the world.

We learned that he moved to his new secret hideout in the North Pole, and he hired a

team of elves to run his workshop.

We were introduced to his extended fleet of 8 magic reindeer, and in 1939, he added the

newest member of the team- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

In 1891, even the President of the United States was promoting Santa Claus.

Benjamin Harrison told the press, “We shall have an old-fashioned Christmas tree for the

grandchildren upstairs, and I shall be their Santa Claus myself.

Let me hope that my example will be followed by every family in the land.”

The very first video footage ever captured of Santa Claus was in 1898, by a filmmaker

named G.A. Smith.

The world could see him leaving presents for sleeping children on Christmas Eve.

Of course, as time went on and modern technology improved, more and more people were capturing

footage of Santa Claus, and it was time for him to come out of hiding, and make his first

public appearances.

The Modern Santa Moving into the 20th Century, Santa Claus

was always hip to the modern times.

During the Industrial Revolution, he was able to improve his operations with his elf employees

working the assembly lines in his workshop at the North Pole.

Santa became more like the CEO of his toy empire, making sure the operation ran as smoothly

as possible.

Now that he wasn’t running his workshop alone, he was finally able to make the time

to begin making public appearances.

In 1924, he decided to be a part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

He received such a warm welcome from his adoring fans, that has decided to reappear every single

year ever since, so long as the organizers meet the demand on his rider to provide him

a tall glass of milk and some warm chocolate chip cookies in the green room.

The 1980’s brought on the boom of the shopping mall in the United States, and this began

the tradition of Santa Claus taking personal requests from girls and boys.

There is even a massive party called “Santa Con” held every year in New York City, which

isn’t even a real convention...It’s just an excuse to dress up like St. Nick and party

in the streets.

There is also the Liverpool Santa Dash, and so many other events around the world thrown

in his honor.

Moving into the 21st century, modern technology has helped us truly break down the science

of just how Santa manages to make his journey.

You can now track St Nick’s progress on the Google Maps “Santa Tracker”.

And in 2016, The Mirror did an intensive study on the statistics of Santa’s magical journey

on Christmas Eve.

They discovered that in order for him to deliver presents to every single child in the world

on a single night, he needs to travel at speeds of 1,280 miles per second, which is faster

than the speed of sound...It’s no wonder that we rarely ever see him in the night sky.

Even though the world loves Santa Claus, that doesn’t mean his legacy has been free from

controversy.

Indeed, he is often blamed for being at the root of making the holiday season about material

things, rather than having young people remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Commercialism is a very real thing, of course, and there is no denying that Santa Claus has

helped sell billions of dollars in products every holiday season, from coca cola to Barbie

dolls.

But in a world where religion and politics divide so many people, there are very few

things that Americans can agree on quite like the tradition of Santa Claus.

Every December 24th, children go to bed early and wake up at the crack of dawn, hoping that

they will find presents underneath their Christmas tree.

For many, it’s one of the very few memories we all share of having faith in something,

and the experience of childhood wonder and the belief in magic.

Sometimes, Santa Claus can’t do everything by himself, and needs to recruit help in unexpected

ways.

Just one example of this was in 2011.

A young couple named Jim and Dylan moved into their new apartment on West 22nd Street in

New York City, when they started to get letters in their mailbox addressed to Santa Claus.

They thought this was a joke, of course, and they went to the post office to see if there

was a forwarding address for the previous tenant, they were told that yes, there was,

but it was simply put as; “The North Pole.”

At first, they didn’t know what to do with these letters, and they had no idea how these

random children got their address.

They even did a thorough search on Google.

Eventually, they decided that they could not ignore these letters.

Many of them were heartbreaking letters that came from under-privileged children.

Dylan and Jim began to pass out letters to their friends and co-workers who all shared

in the responsibility of buying presents for these kids.

Soon enough, the word spread on Facebook, and they were able to get hundreds of letters

fulfilled by kind-hearted volunteers.

They now run a charity called Miracle on 22nd Street, where anyone can volunteer to help

out with the letters to Santa.

If you still aren’t convinced in the existence of Santa Claus, there are few words that can

better express the truth than that of Francis Pharcellus Church.

In 1897, an 8-year old girl named Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun, saying

that her friends in school told her that Santa Claus was not real.

She asked them to tell her the truth, and Church published his reply.

“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as sure as generosity and devotion exists, and you know they abound and give

to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas!

How dreary the world would be without a Santa Claus.”

Here at Biographics, we want to say that Santa Claus truly does exist, so long as he remains

in our hearts.

We wish you a Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays.