picture from google
St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it, he eventually became a saint and set sail towards england.
In the 16th Century in northern Europe, after the reformation, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas became unpopular.
But someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK, particularly in England, he became ‘Father Christmas’ or ‘Old Man Christmas’, an old character from stories plays during the middle ages in the UK and parts of northern Europe. In France, he was then known as ‘Père Nöel’ in Germany, the ‘Christ Kind’. In the early USA, his name was ‘Kris Kringle’. Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle became ‘Sinterklaas’ or as we now say ‘Santa Claus’!
Many countries, especially ones in Europe, celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day on 6th December. In Holland and some other European Countries, children leave clogs or shoes out on the 5th December (St. Nicholas Eve) to be filled with Presents They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas’s horse, they will be left some sweets.
St. Nicholas became popular again in the Victorian era when writers, poets and artists rediscovered the old stories.
In 1823 the famous poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ or ‘T’was the Night before Christmas’, was published. Dr Clement Clarke Moore later claimed that he had written it for his children. (Some scholars now believe that it was actually written by Henry Livingston, Jr., who was a distant relative of Dr Moore’s wife.) The poem describes St. Nicholas with eight reindeer and gives them their names. They became really well known in the song ‘Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer’, written in 1949.
The UK Father Christmas and the American Santa Claus became more and more alike over the years and are now one and the same.
Some people say that Santa lives at the North Pole. In Finland, they say that he lives in the north part of their country called Lapland.
But everyone agrees that he travels through the sky on a sledge that is pulled by reindeer, that he comes into houses down the chimney at night and places presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds, in front of the family Christmas tree, or by the fire place.
Most children receive their presents on Christmas Eve night or early Christmas morning, but in some countries they get their presents on St. Nicholas’ Eve, December 5th.
St. Nicholas putting the bag of gold into a stocking is probably where the custom of having a tangerine or satsuma at the bottom of your Christmas stocking came from. If people couldn’t afford gold, some golden fruit was a good replacement – and until the last 50 years these were quite unusual fruits and so still special!