In order to help you get into the Christmas spirit, this week’s Campus Celebrity is none other than Santa Claus! Back in the day, Saint Nicholas was a 4th century saint and Greek bishop. He had a reputation for leaving coins in the shoes of people who left them out for him. The Dutch took this tradition up, but morphed Saint Nicholas into Sinterklaas, which, obviously, is how we ended up with the name and iconic figure Saint Claus. On Saint Nicholas’ Eve (December 5th), Dutch children put their shoes in front of the chimneys, and leave hay and carrots for Sinterklaas’s horse. The next morning, the children who have been good find candy, marbles, and small toys in their shoes.
Our American Santa Claus is a hybrid of the Dutch Sinterklaas and the British Father Christmas. The whole plump, bearded old man in a red coat image became popular in the United States due to Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas”. The poem also popularized the image of Santa’s eight reindeer. Coca Cola too had a huge influence on modern day Santa images. Ever since the 1930’s, Coca Cola has been printing ads of a jolly, fat Santa in a red hat drinking coke. It’s often said that Santa wears a red coat because red is the Coca Cola color, but in fact Santa had appeared in red before Coca Cola started using him in adds. The Salvation Army strengthened the image of Santa as a benevolent figure. Volunteers dress as Santa and set up at street corners hoping for donations.
One of the artists who defined Santa’s modern image was the cartoonist Thomas Nast. He drew a picture of Santa for Harper’s Weekly in 1863. A poem published with one of Nast’s drawings of Santa, “Santa Claus and His Works”, by George P. Webster, propagated the myth that Santa lives at the North Pole, “in the ice and snow.” A poem by Katherine Lee Bates in 1889, “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride”, popularized the idea of Mrs. Claus. The idea that Santa has a list of the naughty and nice children of the world became popular because of the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in 1934.
According to the Forbes Fictional 15, Santa is the richest character in the world. He has a net worth of more than a billion dollars.
Feel like getting into the Old Saint Nick spirit? Check out some of my favorite holiday books songs, and movies featuring Santa:
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
The Santa Claus
The Polar Express
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Miracle on 34th Street by Vlalentine Davies
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy
Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid
Dominick the Donkey by Ray Allen
You’re never too old to believe in Santa Claus! Merry Christmas!