Who is Santa Claus?

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Who is Santa Claus?

WORLD - 12/25/2009

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Santa Claus, also called Kris Kringle, Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas is a whimsical, mysterious and magical elf who, in a great many western cultures, such as the United States brings gifts to the homes of good little boys and girls all around the world.

According to modern legend, the magical elf is able to do so because of his many helpers, the elves that toil throughout the year making toys, creating candies and more in Santa’s hidden factory at the North Pole. Then, on Christmas Eve, Santa has all the toys loaded into his sleigh, hitches up eight flying reindeer and is whisked around the world in the blink of an eye, spreading joy, hope and cheer wherever he goes.

The legend may have begun because of stories about a real gift giver, Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas of Myra is credited with being the inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus. He was a fourth-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in what is the country Turkey.

Nicholas was famous for his generosity to the poor. One tale which has survived the ages is that Saint Nicholas presented three poor maidens with dowries so that they could wed instead of living out their lives as old maids or worse.

While Saint Nicholas is portrayed in lore as wearing bishop's robes, the figure of Santa Claus is almost universally shown to be a plump, jolly, white-bearded man wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots.

This concept of Santa Claus began in the United States during the 1800s because of a famous and highly respected caricaturist named Thomas Nast, who published a caricature of Santa Claus in Harper’s Magazine. Part of the American Santa Claus legend has the jolly elf living at his house on the North Pole. In England, Santa’s equivalent, Father Christmas resides in the mountains of Korvatunturi in Lapland Province, Finland.

The legend that is Santa Claus has come to embody the spirit of good cheer at Christmas. Many parts of the legend that is Santa Claus come directly from the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas;" better known today as "The Night Before Christmas," which was published in the New York Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823.

In that poem, jolly old St. Nick is not described as a large man, but rather a small elf, riding a miniature sleigh being pulled by eight tiny reindeer. Over the years, Santa Claus has evolved into the jolly large man depicted today.

One thing that has remained a constant is that Santa Claus symbolizes the spirit of charity and philanthropy. This affect has been used by many organizations, such as the Salvation Army, with yearly Christmas season volunteers dressed as Santa Claus ringing a bell in front of a kettle for donations to the poor.

Who is Santa Claus? Santa is the spirit of love and giving; of help, hope and happiness. The elf resides within each of us and during the first chill of the year, during the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, that spirit is evident all around in the smiles and dreams of children everywhere.

May each of you enjoy the very best this holiday season has to offer!

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