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Debunking Santa: No Ho, Ho, Ho

A look at the history behind the development of the man we now call Santa Claus.

Before I cause mass hysteria, I’d like to detail the reason why this article is being written. I feel as if our modern world deserves a degree of truth, one withheld from media outlets and educational boards. We are currently propagating a myth, that a chunky man from the North Pole travels the world on Christmas Day to deliver gifts to good little boys and girls. It is as if we are conditioning the children to a modern equivalent of Buddha, with a boatload of white hair and a life of non-celibacy. So, without further adieu, I begin.

Whether you see it spelled Santa Clause or Santa Claus, he is not a Superhero, ranked among the likes of Spiderman and Batman. He’s more of the Chuck Norris type, quasi-“based on a true story” and heavily reliant on urban legend. This explains his special abilities, which include fire-retardant skin, eternal life, and the polemical skills needed to enslave thousands of elves while avoiding mutiny.

His cultural derivative is found in none other than Saint Nicholas, a Christ-like figure who resided in fourth century Myra. St. Nicholas, or Bishop Nicholas, was rumored to have been a well appreciated patron who had a great love for children. This eventually twisted and churned through the annals of American history, marked by the monumental sponsoring via Coca Cola.

America soon grew comfortable with the adoption of Saint Nicklaus (the German spelling of Saint Nicholas) as a stout, roly-poly shaped man–and the rest of the world soon grew comfortable with America’s depiction of him. Before we knew it America had developed a post-mortem celebrity, granted the liberty to attribute whichever traits it desired. This explains the institution of the elves, the development of Rudolph, Prancer, Dasher, and Dixon, as well as Mrs. Claus.

Following the switch from St. Nicholas to St. Nicklaus, Thomas Nast developed the more concise, Americanized name: Santa Claus.

Santa Claus became an enormous figure in commercial culture, and was also exported internationally. His success boosted end-year sales, bolstering the Christmas economy. In a time of economic disparity, this was an invaluable advantage. An almost Big Brother like authority came from Santa Claus advertising, promoting cheer and goodwill during the holidays. All in all, Santa Claus underwent a complete integration into, not only American, but worldwide culture.

However, one must recognize that St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are two very different people. Though St. Nicholas may have been a humanitarian contributor to social well-being, he is nowhere near the juggernaut Santa Claus is. Santa is and will always be a figment of our own national imagination, but one that embodies our moral principles.

There was never a man that snuck down peoples’ chimneys, kissed someone’s wife, delivered presents, and ate cookies. But there will be millions of happy children this Christmas, receiving the immeasurable gift of love.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. 

(Source: Some information cited in this story was found at stnicholascenter.org/pages/origin-of-santa/ )

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