Saint Nicholas vs. Santa Claus
People all over the world know this man. He's fat, he's got a long white beard, and he's very jolly. He wears red clothes, and usually carries a large sack over his shoulder. He rides across the sky in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. His name is Santa Claus. But who is he really?
There was once a person whose name was St. Nicholas. He lived in the 4th century in the Byzantine Empire. He was known to be very kind and generous, especially toward children. He devoted his life to God and became a Bishop. Today he is known as Sankt Nikolaus in Germany, Sv. Mikuláš in the Czech Republic or Sinterklaas in the Netherlands. The traditions came to America with the early Dutch settlers, and Sinterklaas became Santa Claus. Other names are also used for Nicholas, such as St. Nick, Father Christmas (Britain), Papa Noel (France) and many others.
Everybody knows the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings on the mantelpiece. It is connected with St. Nicholas, too. There is a legend about a very poor family. The father couldn't afford a proper dowry for his three daughters, and so there was no chance that they could get good husbands. But St. Nicholas helped them. He dropped bags of gold down the chimney into the girls' stockings which had been hung on the mantelpiece to dry.
But where did the sleigh and reindeer and red clothes come from? Clement C. Moore wrote a poem where he describes St. Nicholas as a jolly man flying in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. This was what inspired the artist Thomas Nash to draw pictures for a magazine, showing St. Nicholas as a jolly man with red clothes, a round belly and a long white beard. And that is the Santa, who gives presents to children all over the world.
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