While we all grow out of our Santa-believing phase eventually, Saint Nicholas certainly did once exist.
While Santa Claus, the big jolly guy in a red suit who stuffs himself down chimneys to deliver presents to every child in the world, might be a little far-fetched, Saint Nicholas really did exist.
In this article, we’ll look into the history and origins of Saint Nicholas to find out the answer to the burning question: is Santa real?
Who is Santa Claus? – a fictional jolly man
Also known as Father Christmas, Santa is the most notable figure associated with the festive season of Christmas.
As the story goes, Santa Claus is a jolly, bearded man who lives in the North Pole. He travels around the world every year on 25 December, delivering presents to children who make his ‘nice list’.
After sliding down their chimneys while the children sleep soundly, he puts their gifts under their Christmas trees.
The sleigh that transports him across the globe in one night is pulled by his nine trusted reindeer, Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and the most famous Rudolph.
Is Santa real? – inspired by a real figure
So, is the red-cloaked, white-bearded, black-booted man with the sack who flies around the world delivering presents to children real?
No, although nearly all of us had that illusion when we were younger! That illusion was then shattered for us all at one time or another. Maybe it was a big sister, a classmate, or a tipsy uncle; that conversation is one we will never forget!
However, Santa Claus is inspired by a real person – Saint Nicholas. While Santa Claus might be a fictitious figure, Saint Nicholas was a very real one.
Saint Nicholas – the inspiration behind Santa Claus
While the roots of Santa Claus are recognised through a number of historical figures, Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian saint, is the main source of inspiration.
Saint Nicholas was a bishop who lived during the 4th century in the Lycia region of the Roman Empire, which is now Turkey.
Nicholas was known as a generous man who often presented gifts to the poor. He was a devout man from an early age and devoted his entire life to Christianity.
Saint Nicholas was known for carrying out many good and selfless deeds. In particular, he presented three impoverished young girls with dowries so that they wouldn’t have to become prostitutes.
Father Christmas – sprung from England in the 16th century
So, it was in 16th-century England that the idea of Father Christmas came around. It all began with the reign of Henry VIII.
Father Christmas was created as a large man in green or scarlet robes lined with fur, much like the modern-day image of him.
He was the essence of good cheer at Christmas who brought happiness, peace, good food, wine and revelry to the occasion.
6 December was once the feast day of Saint Nicholas in England, but this was moved to 25 December to coincide with Christmas Day.
Variations – unique around the world
In Holland and Belgium, Santa Claus competes with the character Sinterklaas. While Sinterklaas also derives from Saint Nicholas, he lives in Spain and rides a white horse called Amerigo. Santa Claus is referred to as de Kerstman in Dutch.
Sinterklaas Day, or Saint Nicholas Day, is celebrated in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world on 6 December. Many people in these regions will give gifts on this day rather than Christmas Day.
In Belgium, traditionally, only children are offered presents on 6 December, while everyone receives gifts on Christmas Day.
In Switzerland, Père Fouettard is a character who accompanies Father Christmas, Père Noel, on his rounds during Saint Nicholas Day.
He’ll dispense gifts to the good children and lumps of coal or beatings to naughty children, as the tale goes! These are just some of the many variations on the tradition of Father Christmas around the world.
The joy of Christmas – is Santa real? To keep the spirit of Christmas alive, yes!
So, why do we pretend that Santa Claus is a real person to children? Well, because the joy and excitement of children around Christmastime is one of the most beautiful things in the world.
Santa Claus is a beloved and treasured character around the world. He is a mythical figure who brings joy to millions of kids all over the world, so it’s one illusion we all continue to uphold throughout the generations.