Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus, Info- and Booking Center Westerkwartier
Santa Claus, the history         Dutch version

The Christmas figur that we now know as Santa Claus, has a long multiple-entry pre-history. Nowadays we see him primarily as a Merry man in a red costume, from whom, in many Western cultures, is said that he does bring gifts in the homes of the good children during the late evening hours or in the overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24th.
But Santa Claus, also known as Nick(olaus), Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Pre Nol, Der Weihnachtsmann or simply "Santa", is a figure with both historic and legendary, as well as mythical and folkloric origins. On the one side, his story goes back to the pre-Christian time (Yule-festival/Joel-man) and on the other side it goes back to the early Christian time (Father Christmas, Pre Nol, der Weihnachtsmann, Saint Nicholas and Kris Kringle).
The extended info about Saint Nicholas and his history and his festivalx you will find on any of the other pages of our site, We will not repeat all of that here. Be a few issues will be mentioned here yet (again)
Here we mention especially the Yuleman, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, the Weihnachtsmann, Christkindl/KrisKringle, their origin, their mutual relations and the merging of these figures among themselves and with parts of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) and/or the Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) stories, creating a fusion arised in the figure of Santa Claus (Santa Claus).

Yule man:
In Northern Europe, since immemorial time a figure existed who prepared the people with rod and nuts on the wintertime. The rod was seen as a fertility symbol, the nuts as rich and durable food. This bearded old man was dressed in a long brown furry winter coat with hood and he was riding a reindeer sleigh, his place of residence was in the Northern Scandinavian woods.
It is believed that elements of the Vikings gods Odin and Balder played along.
Today's celebration of Christmas comes directly from ancient rituals performed during the time of the Winter Solstice, from the Latin sol, ("sun") + sistere ("stop, stending still"). So, the Winter Solstice is the day of the still-Sun, so called because around that time the Sun seems to stand still in the air. This phenomenon arises due to the fact that the earth revolves around the Sun, the angle (declination = North/South position) to the Sun is constantly changing because of the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the Sun. Solstices takes place when simultaneously the Sun is farthest from the celestial equator (the Equator imaginary projected against the sky), and the Earth's axis and the real Equator have reached their most tilted state. In the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice happens when the Sun is farthest to the South. The declination of the Sun at that time, is called the "tropic of Capricorn" (Tropic of Capricorn), and also "Southern tropics".
The old Celtic Coligny calendar, which dates back to the time of the first century BC to the first century AD, mentions the Winter Solstice not as one of the four major annual celebrations and also not as one of the great "fire-Events". Nevertheless, it is certain that the Celts, like other ancient peoples, did celebrate the Winter Solstice or "Yule," as it was called also.
The word "Yule" is akin to the Old Norwegian hvl, (modern Norwegian hjul, old English hwol) meaning "Wheel". The Celtic equivalent is cuidheal (pronounced "coo-yul"). Opposite to our contemporary linear (straight line) concept of time, the idea the Celts had was that the time was an eternal-rotating wheel. And just like other ancient peoples, they regarded the Yule as being both the re-birth of the Sun God (the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, so the light comes back then) as well as a feast for (and by) the dead (Think in this connection also to Halloween). The Celtic Sun-God was Bel ("Bright One"), which is akin to the Celtic dead-God Ble ("Great Tree").
During the Yule, they appeared in the disguise of the Oak-King/King Forest (Bel) and the Holly-King (Ble), summer and winter, respectively. As with the Summer Solstice or "Litha", the Oak King and the Holly-King fight for power. But at the Winter Solstice or Yule, it's the growing Oak-King (summer) that defeats the weakening Holly-King (winter).
 The Yearwheel

The Oak-King
The Oak-King is also known as the Green Man and sometimes disguises as the Green Knight. The Holly-King is also known as the Red Man and often appears disguises as the Red demon or devil.
During the middle-ages, this red, horned, bearded figure, merged together with the devil with annotation of the Christians.
In many countries around the world, the two characters of the Oak-and-Holly King did remain separated, and usually it is the Oak-King who plays the role of the Good, the role of rewarder and gifts-giver, while the Holly-King did get the role of the evil-bad, the punisher/executioner or the robber. But it did happen (and still does) also that they come together and that Holly King was defeated (bounded, servient and subjected) by the Oak-King. For example at the assumption that Le Pre Fouettard (France) is a by Saint Nicolas captived devil.
  The Holly-King
The Holly-King
Father Christmas   The Oak-King or the green man is also called the Yule man, who sometimes is accompanied by goblins or elves, in the winter he did visit the people where he then got food and drinks. By this manor the people he hoped to make him benevolent, so that they in the new year would have a good harvest and the birth of many young animals. Then wore the Oak-King also often Hulst on his clothes on to indicate that he had overcome the Holly-King, and that all would be green (and fertile) again. So he di not spent gifts (except the expectation that there would come a spring again), but he did get gifts (food and drink) insted.
Because Christmas (Kerstfeest, Weihnachten, Nol) did not exist at that time, therefore the Yule man does not originate from the Weihnachtsman, Pere Noel, or Father Christmas, though he has contributed to their later arise. But that is still discussed later.
The colors that are regularly associated with Yule are red, green, and white. Red is for the weakening Hulst-King and everything he stands for; Green is for the growing Oak-King and everything he stands for; and white is for the cleanliness/purity and the hope of the rebirth of light.
Midwinter is the celebration of the longest night. After the midwinter night, the days get longer and the nights getare shorter. The new light is reborn with Yule. To give more force to the return of the light, the Germans did chose a tree which they put on fired in honor of the god of light, so he would continue to stay among us until the harvest. The lights in our Christmas tree do originate from that.
What the core point is here, is that the Yule feast is a celebration of Hope, Hope that the Darkness is banned from the Earth and that the light will be reborn again. Something you also find at the Christian Christmas.
And for us as seekers of the origin of Santa Claus it is thus important that in pre-Christian time (and also in the early Christian time) a Yule man did exist there.

The Christian equivalent of Yule is Christmas, which was inoculate on the Yule Festival, in a feeble attempt by the early Christians to let the people forget the so-called Pagan ('bad and diabolical') festival. Christmas = "Christ's Mass" = the mass of Christ or the Christianized Festival or (German) Weihnachten (the consecrated {Holy} night.) In Gaelic is Nollaig ("Christmas," literally translated means though "the Nativity" = "the birth", Christian say "The Birth of the Light" so yet another reference to the 'old' Yule festival.
Another reason that the Christmas festival came in place was a matter for the Yulefeest Roman ofx state interest. In the Roman Empire, a mysterious religion (Roman Mithraism), which was believed it originally came from India/Persia (Mithras was an Indian/Persian deity, Sun-God or son of Sun-God), had became many followers and Emperor Aurelius did officially declared the 25th December to be 'Dies Natalis Solis Invictus' ("birthday of the Unconquered Sun"). This seems does look much on the Yulefestival) December the 25th had long been known as the birthday of Mithras, of which was said that he, like so many gods and heroic figures, was gods son born of a Virgin Mother, and that he died and was reborn or rerisen. As was the case with many other religions, this Mithraism was a strong competitor for the still young Christianity, so that when Constantine the great became the Roman Emperor, he faced a divided Empire, in which the competition between Mithraism and Christianity the cause was for many conflicts. The date of Jesus birthday was still unknown, although several dates were mentioned including "Nativity" the 6 January. But under the reign of Constantine they did pin Jesus's birthday on the 25th December, so that mithraism and Christianity had to celebrate together the same day.
This was the beginning of the amalgamation of the Yule-festival with the Christmas festival, and also the origin of many of the current traditions around the Christmas and Santa Claus.

Father Cristmas, Pre Nol, Weihnachtsman etc:
As with the history of Saint Nicholas already is discussed, was Father Christmas the name used in many English-speaking countries (with the exception of United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) used for the Figure associated with Christmas. A simmilair Figure with a simmilair name (in other languages) does exist in several other countries, including France (Pre Nol), Spain (Pap Noel, Padre Noel), almost whole Spanish-language South America (Pap Noel), Brasil (Papai Noel), Portugal (Pai Natal), Italy (Babbo Natale), Armenia (Kaghand Papik), India (Christmas Father), Andorra (Pare Noel), Romania (Moş Crăciun) and Turkey (Noel Baba).

Father Christmas:
In England they had long know a Father Christmas. Father Christmas was a kind of personification of Christmas and at the same time a pagan figure from the Joel time. In the stories around the Joel time there always played a kind of 'recommended' Father Christmas. This paternal end-of-year figure over time got something from many traditions but never anything directly of our St. Nicholas. He did receive much later though via Santa Claus some Dutch Saint Nicholas-like (Sinterklaas-like) traits and/or traditions. But in England Father Christmasis is really always been another figure as St. Nicholas and he still is another figure today. Father Christmas is also older than the Holy Saint! In previous centuries, was the English Father Christmas also known under the names Old Father Christmas, Sir Christmas, and Lord Christmas. Nowadays Father Christmas usually wears a red dress, but in Victorian times and in the Tudor times he usually wore green and sometimes blue (King Winter).
The first mention of him is found in the 15th century. A manuscript in the Bodelian Library Museum, dated around circa 1458 AD, contains an anonymous Christmas carol that starts with the lyrics:
 Father Christmas

Goday, goday, my lord Sire Christmas, goday!
Goday, Sire Christmas, our king,
for ev'ry man, both old and ying,
is glad and blithe of your coming;

A similar verse (carol) is attributed to Richard Smert (c. 1400 c. 1479) and is located in the British Museum, and that Additional verse has a dialogue form (interview form). It begins as follows:

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell
Who is there that singeth so: Nowell, nowell, nowell?
I am here, Sire Christsmas.
Welcome, my lord, Sire Christmas!
Welcome to us all, both more and less!
Come near, Nowell.

Sire/Lord Christmas suggested in that time the spirit of joy and merriment belonging to the Christmas festivities, (such as in Dickens "a Christmas Carol", the spirits of Christmas-Past, Christmas-Present and Christmas-Yet to Come). But he was still no bringer of gifts and also had no special connection with children.
The specific image of Christmas as a merry old man comes in the beginning of the 17th century, due to the resistance against the Puritan criticism (Reformation) on the traditions around the Christmas festivities. The Spirit of Christmas is "old" because the feast itself is already old, something the defenders of the festivities saw as a good old Christian custom that therefore had to be preserved. Things portraying was at that time very popular, so also "old Christmas" was regularly depicted. The first known time was in Ben Jonson's creation in 'Christmas his Masque' dated December 1616. Later, in a piece by Thomas Nabbes, 'The Springs Glory' produced in 1638, "Christmas" appears as "an old venerable gentleman dressed in a fur coat with hood". In 1645, there appeared a pamphlet in the street of London, in which the Government became defied by means of a humeristisch report of the condemnation and the capture of Old Christmas, and the buh's and cheers after his escape. In 1647 was Old Christmas banned in England, and traditional public Christmas celebrations were often visited by a Father Christmas, who also did tarte the Government there. "In comes I, Old Father Christmas, Be I be I welcome or not, I hope that Christmas will ne'er be forgot". This depiction remains regularly happening in the next 250 years, as Sir Christmas, Lord Christmas and as Father Christmas, the last is slowly becoming the most common. Images of him from that period show him as a man with a long beard dressed in green coat with fur trimmed. Father Christmas

Father Christmas In "Time's Telescope" (1822) one of the writers describes that in Yorkshire at eight o'clock in the evening on Christmas Eve the (Church) bells do greet "Old Father Christmas" with happy sounds, while the children parade through the streets with drums, trumpets, and bubbles, and while the yule candle is lit.
Where Father Christmas in the Victorian time still was linked to drinking and dining events of adults. And came on foot or by donkey (sometimes as mount sometimes as pack-mule), is there early 1800 thus a merging going on with the more modern gifts bringing St Nicholas and parts of his traditions and folklore. The difference with Saint Nicholas who came on foot or riding on a horse, was that Father Cristmas came with a sleigh (sometimes pulled by horses, sometimes by reindeer, both as well as troika or Quadriga).
At the beginning of the 20th century (1900s), Father Christmas was also become a figure who brought presents, just think of the story of Narnia in which he gave the 4 children their weapons. And in which story he marked the end of the winter. Which clearly shows that Father Christmas really is not the same as Jack Frost, King Winter and not even the same as Father Time. Despite that he did got the traditions of Saint Nicholas he did not became Saint Nicholas and so did, in a large part of the English culture St. Nicholas continue to exist as Christian Saint without the traditions of Saint Nicholas the 'Sinterklaas'. So in England you have Saint Nicholas the in the churches revered Holy man, who brings no gifts, and you have no tradition of Father Christmas who does bring gifts and who later became Santa Claus.

Pre Nol:
Pre Nol, is just like Father Christmas and the Weihnachtsmanxn based partly on the Yuleman, and partly on the 'Spirit of Christmas'. By trade relations and marriages (in the wealthy families), there was an exchange of traditions between the European countries. And so were these three Figures simultaneously arisen from the same source, and where they in the beginning basically were the same, in time there were due to local (or national) superstitions and traditions still small differences between them. (At first they were the same, later they became more like brothers, you might say).
So was the appearance of Pre Nol largely molded like a Julenisse (Yule Nisse), a pagan Scandinavian Gnome/GNOME. From the Julenisse, Pre Nol has the white beard, his Red Hat and its Nordic clothing.
These Nisses were Gnomes whom in winter looked for housing by the people (hidden in stables and/or haylofts) and as a reward therefore often repaired things for the people, or did chores or made toys (Dolls, whistles etc) to the children. In turn the people rewarded the Nisses for that then with a dish with biscuits and a cup of milk because the Nisses do love that. (This is the origin of the American tradition that children some leave cookies and (chocolate)milk for Santa Claus.
 Pre Nol

According to French tradition, the children before they went to bed on Christmas Eve did leave their shoes by the fireplace, filled with carrots and goodies for Gui, (French for "Mistletoe") the donkey of Pre Nol. Pre Nol takes the gift and, if the child has been sweet and obedient, let presents behind in its place. Those presents are traditionally small enough to fit in a shoe, like candy, money or small toys.
Around the 15th century this feast mixed itself with the Innocents feast and thereafter (thereby) also with the feast of Saint Nicholas. And so the figure of Pre Noel did move somewhat into the background. And SintNicolaas took over one of the Pre Nol traditions (putting the shoe in the evening). Except for the Protestants who rejected the worship of Saint Nicolas and therefore returned to celebrating Pre Nol.
This made that Pre Nol was also sometimes confused with the figure of Saint Nicholas. In Eastern France (Alsace and Lorraine regions), in French-speaking Belgium, in Switzerland, and in Eastern Europe there is next to the Pre Nol tradition also the parallel tradition to Saint Nicolas on December 6th to celebrate. On that 6 december feast party both the Saint and Pre Nol could appear, but whoever the one was that did come, he was mentored by Le Pre Fouettard (Father Whip), which is also known under other names, for example, in parts of Germany as Knecht Ruprecht or Pelsnickel, Austria (Krampus), Netherlands and Belgium (Zwarte Piet (NL)-Pieterman Knecht (BE)). Le Pre Fouettard was (and is) an obscure figure, dressed in black who guided Saint Nicolas and punished the naughty children. Here St. Nicholas took over a second custom of Pre Nol (le Pre Fouettard is possible the forerunner of Zwarte Piet (Pete Black or Black Pete)). Partly through the influence of the Roman Church in France, Saint Nicolas remained despite the frequent mixes yet another figure as Pre Nol. So when the concept of Santa Claus blew over from America to Europe, this Santa Claus figure in addition to the name Santa Claus also got the name Pre Nol (and could get it) without that somehow diminishing the figure of Saint Nicolas.
In Brazil, thanks to the influence of French culture in the 19th century, the name Papai Noel also established, for example, next to the Portuguese name Pai Natal.

Der Weihnachtsmann:
Also the very first Weihnachtsmann (about 4th century) was thus based on the Yule-man. And also here you saw after the appearance of the stories about Sankt Nikolaus and the associated worship, a replacement by that same Sankt Nikolaus. And also here you saw so at the time of the reformation (around 1520, Luther) that the Protestants did return to the not Roman Weihnachtsmann. Luther rejected the cult of Saints, and for this reason its adherents also distance themselves of these practices and therefore refused to worship the Holy Nicholas. They went looking for a replacement and found the Weihnachtsmann, who does not braugth the children gifts on 6 december but on the evening of 24 December. Funny enough did this Protestant Weihnachtsmann sitll get something of his Yule-ancestor. For what does the Weihnachtsmann say if he comes to visit? "Von drausen, aus den Walder, da komme Ich her, Ich kann Euch sagen, es Weihnachtet sehr!". From afar, From the Woods, that's wher I do come from ('Von drausen, Aus den Walden da komme Ich her'), now that is logical for the guardian of nature, animals and forests such as the Forest King/Oak-King was/is.  The early Weihnachtsmann

The presents that the Weihnachtsmann brought with him, were according to Luther, donated by the Christmas Child, the little baby Jesus, 'Das Christkind' or endearing meant 'Das Christkindle' that sometimes also was depicted as a little angel.
Just like in Belgium and France the Roman Catholic part of the country remained celebrating, of course, the Sankt Nikolaus festival, while the Protestant part thus celebrated Weihnachten (Christmas).
In the eighteenth century, the German rulers tried to start a process of secularization, they made Christian symbols from old-Germanic symbols and figures and they did change 'non-Christian' events in Christian celebrations.
It's the return of the little people, such as fairies, elves, goblins, and the old man Christmas (Weihnachtsmann) who with his sleigh did bring decorated Christmas trees and gifts. Here thus do appear for the first the decorated trees at the Christmas feast. And of course did Old Man Christmas need a Christian name and then one that was acceptable to everyone, for Roman as well as for Protestants. And so it was that somewhere in the 1700s that the Weihnachtsmann did get something of Sankt Nikolaus again, namely the name Nikolaus. So now you had there thus basically 3 in Germany: The Christkindle, Nikolaus the Weihnachtsmann and St. Nikolaus the Saint. And it could (and can) so happen that Nikolausthe Weihnachtsmann came accompanied by a little angel personifying the Christkindle.
 The Christchild

The famous Christmas song "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann", of which the text was written in 1840 by Hoffmann von Fallersleben, begins with the lines: "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann, kommt mit seinen Gaben." ("Gaben" means Gifts) This shows that the Weihnachtsmann was already general know as gifts-bringer and that in that time also in the Roman parts of Germany the gifts were believe to be brougth by the Weihnachtsmann.
The first visual representation of the German Weihnachtsmann is found in an image by Moritz von Schwind. He painted in 1847, an image of "Mr. Winter". It was a man with a long white beard, a hooded coat, a big bag and a tail. That tail, however, was to banish the winter and not to punish children. The Weihnachtsmann was sometimes aided by 'Wichtel'. The Scandinavian sagasstature of the Nisse was in Germany been taken over by the 'Wichtel'. The German custom of the Wichtels in the run-up to Weihnachtenn derived from that, Also the Custom in which they, anonym and through draw the names, gave each other gifts. They were each other's Wichtel so to speak. Also the Red Hat of these Nisse would have stand model for the hat from the Weihnachtsmann.  Mr. Winter by Moritz von Schwind

Scandinavia, Russia. Mediterranean countries and the Balkans.
The more to the South, the more Catholic countries were, and the more Saint Nicolas was worshipped and remained honored. And of course he was and remained worshipped in Greece and the Balkans, it was there, after all, that his worship did start, and it was there that it had also the sturdiest roots. So along the European side of the Middellandze Sea there was only the Saint Nicholas worship and no Father Christmas.

In Scandinavia he was barely celebrated, there the people held on to the Viking culture and so also to the Yule celebration with the Yule Man.
In Finlandthere is the Joulepukki ("Yule Buck" or "Yule Goat") also known as the Julbocken or Christmas buck who plays a role at the Yule festival. Originally he did not bring gifts, but he did claim gifts insted, looming with the evil spirits who followed him. These evil spirits were horned and dressed in goatskins. Nowadays he does bring gifts. Joulupukki has a wife, joulumuori ("Christmas-wife", "Christmas-Granny"), about which little is known.
In Norway in the old times, it was said that the Julebukk ("Yule buck" or "Yule goat") was the goat that pulled the chariot of the Thunder God Thor through heaven. Nowadays the Julebukk feast is turned into a festival with singing children dressed as Santa's elfs, who go from house to house singing in exchange for candy and other treats. Christmas gifts are now brought by the Julenisse ("Yule Goblin"), which is assisted by the Smnissen ("little Goblins").
In Sweden life the Yule Tomte ("Gnome"/goblins) beneath the floors of the houses or they live in the barns, where they then come forth with Christmas. From the large bag that they wear on their backs they take the gifts that they leave behind.
In Danmark the Julemanden ("Yule Man") doe come in a sleigh pulled by one or more reindeer and he also wears a sack with gifts on his back. He is aided by the Juul Nisse ("Yule Goblins"), who live in the attics, and for whom the people drop porridge, rice pudding or milk outside.
 Yule-man in Sleigh with Goat

In Russia there is Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz), who along with his granddaughter snow white (or snowflake; Snegurochka) dispenses gifts on 31 december, and whose residence is in the woods near Veliky Ustyug (North-Russia).  Ded Moroz-Grandfather Frost-King Winter & Sneguroka

Okay, you will think, all very interesting, but what about Santa Claus? And what does this all have to do with Santa Claus?
Well that is exactly what we will tell and explain here.

North America (Canada and the USA
Santa Claus begins its history in the USA 4 centuries ago.
Just as the population of the United States of America itself is a great melting pot of various peoples and cultures, so was America's Santa Claus also a melting pot of the figures and their customs we discribed earlier on this page, where the Oak King and the Holly King, the Yulenisse, the Weihnachtsmann, Das Christkindle and Saint Nicolas were merged into a unit with two sides. So was America's Santa Claus both the rewarder and giftsbringer as well as the punisher and plagueghost, who left for the brave children gifts and left ash and lumps of coal for the naughty children.
And that was it then? ... No, we're going to explain how this happend, and also how he did developed himself into the Cheerful Friendly Santa that does bring all children something.
 Saint Nicholas, Nast's Santa and Modern Santa

The first Europeans who arrived in the new world brought St. Nicholas already along.
The Vikings did name their cathedral in Greenland after him.
On its first journey on december 6 1492, Columbus did name a Haitian port after St. Nicholas.
In Florida Spaniards did name an early settlement St. Nicholas Ferry, this is now known as Jacksonville.
But that was before the reformation and these Europeans did not yet permanently settle in the new world, they were more like temporary occupation forces. 1 or 2 years of service in the new world and then they returned back home (Europe) back.

The first settlers, mainly Puritan and other Protestant Reformers, brought no Nicholas traditions to the new world. Quit the opposite !
1600's: The Puritans banned the naming of St. Nicolas his name, and people were not allowed to exchange any gifts, decorate with lighting candles or sing Christmas songs. An exception to this were the Dutch settlers who founded Nieuw Amsterdam (New Amsterdam, later New York) and the German settlers in Pennsylvania.
17th century (= the 1600s!): Dutch immigrants brought the legends of Saint Nicholas with them.
Granted, although it is believed the Dutch were world-wide that St Nicholas brought to New Amsterdam, inquisitive students could hardly find traces of this tradition in New Netherland. On the other hand this not so strange, .... Because: In the first place will the Dutch at New Amsterdam have taken with them their accounts, their Administration, their library and personal data etc, so then there would be already little info more to find anyway. In the second place: just like the Christians used the Saint Nicholas celebration and the Christmas feast wanting to erase the memory of celebrating the Yule-feast, so will the English Goverment have been eager to erase the memories of the Dutch presence. So again there would be hardly any info to find anymore.
Still there does exist a report on the visit of (a Dutch) St. Nicholas to the Dutch quarter in New York, on new year's Eve. New Years gift giving since 1558 had become the English custom to make the Saint Nicholas feast forgotten and this English custom existed even in the New York of 1847.

In 1773 New York non-Dutch patriots formed the Sons of St. Nicholas, primarily as a non-British symbol to counter the English St. George societies, rather than to honor St. Nicholas. This society was similar to the Sons of St. Tammany in Philadelphia. Not exactly St. Nicholas, the children's gift-giver.
Though there were on a small scale Saint Nicholas celebrations:
In December 1773 and again in 1774, a New York newspaper wrote that groups of Dutch families were come together to honor the anniversary of St Nicholas.

After the American Revolution (freeing up from England), the New Yorkers proudly remembered again the nearly forgotten Dutch origin of their city (colony). John Pintard, an influential patriot and antiqeur who also did founded the New York Historical Society in 1804, made St. Nicholas to the patron saint of both the society and the city. The members of this societie were required to participate in the practice to give gifts with Christmas.
That the other Dutch and German Saint Nicholas traditions were not forget with this, is shown by the following:
Already in 1773 the name "St. A Claus" (Saint A Klaas or even better Sankte Claus) did appear in the American press, but it was the popular writer Washington Irving who did give the Americans their first detailed information about the Dutch version of Santa Claus.
In January 1809, Washington Irving became a member of the society and on St. Nicholas Day of the same year, he published the satirical fiction "Knickerbocker's History of New York", with numerous references to a Jolly St. Nicholas figure. Irving described the coming of the Holy man (Sankte Claus) on horseback (unaccompanied by Black Peter) on St. Nicholas Eve. This was not directly the Holy Bishop, but more a elfish-looking long Dutch man with a clay (porcelain) pipe. The fantastic figments of the imagination of him, in that story, formed the source for the New Amsterdam St. Nicholas legends: -that the first Dutch emigrants ship had St. Nicholas as figurehead; -that St. Nicholas Day was celebrated in the colony; - That the first church was dedicated to him; and -that St. Nicholas came through the chimney to bring gifts.
This last New Amsterdam legend (gifts down the chimney) did match with the old Saint Nicholas legends from the Netherlands, and is actually the only one of these New Amsterdam legends that is still part of the Santa Claus traditions in our time.
Irving's work was regarded as the "first important work in the field of Fantasy (imagination) in the New World."
This allows you to rightly say that the US version of the Santa Claus figure owes his inspiration and maybe partly its name (Saint Nicolas-Santa Claus) to the Dutch/German Legends of Saint Nicholas, but also that many of the other customs come from the cultures of the other settlers. For example, the name Kris Kringle came from the German settlers, just like the Christmas tree and perhaps even his name Sankte Claus - Santa Claus( Sankte Claus is as wel old-Dutch (Sankte Claes/Klaes) as it is old-German (Sankte Claus)). Anyway one thing is clear eigther by Dutch influence or by German influence, The Northern American Santa Claus did get his name from Saint Nicholaus.
BE AWARE !: THE NAME SANTA CLAUS DID NOT (can not) BE DECENDING FROM THE NAME SINTERKLAAS. Shortly after the 2cnd worldwar and even during the early 50-tier years it was considered to be not welmanoured (and even rude!) to call Saint Nicholas Sinterklaas, in some family's chlderen got disciplened if they did say Sinterklaas andon some schools those children even got punnised fot that (as J.W. Koning states: "During the fist years of my youth, Kids got punnished for saying Sinterklaas insted of Sint Nicolaas" in his Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus Archive. The name-change from Saint Nicholas into Sinterklaas and thereby the all around acceptence of the name Sinterklaas was happening between the late 30 and medium 50 years. Allmost 200 years after the first documentation of the name of Saint a Claus. QUOTE: Did you know that the first recorded mention of Santa Claus in the United States was in 1773? The New York Press reported a story about a St. A Claus. (Which is clearly the name Saint A Claus. pronounced as Santa Claus) In my opinion a clear proof that the name Santa Claus (existing wel before 1850) did not decended from the name Sinterklaas (totally not existing before 1920 and most likely even not existing before 1930), but most likely decended from Sankte Claes/Claus (the old Dutch and German (more likely) names for Saint Nicholas). And also shows that some of the origins of Santa Claus his looks and customs therefore can differ from those of the Dutch Sinterklaas and even from those of hte Europian Saint Nicholas!.

In 1812 Irving brought a new customized version of his book, in which he let Nicholas ride in a horse pulled cart over the trees.
That was a change based on logic, for an older man was driving a car much easier as riding a horse, and the car also offered much more space for the gifts. The later changes were mostly influenced by other cultures.
The 19th century was a time of cultural change. New Yorkish writers, and others, wanted to make the Christmas feast to be a homely happening. Because 'Christmas of old' wasn't anymore about families sitting cosy around at fireplace with a tree and giftsgiving and singing Carols while being nice to the children. It was rather just characterized by noisy groups of drunk people who roamed through the streets, destroying everything and bothering or threatening the merchants and shopowners.
And gradually, under the influence of the work of these writers, the Holiday Season, (the periode of time that the work on the fields was done and the people did would have more time for resting, for each other and for social gathering) did became a time with a new understanding for the family life. Also the place/value of the children in the socialpicture changed, the youth period was more and more seen as a period in life in which more protection, more care, more education and more training were needed. And so the Holiday Season, in time, became a quiet periode with attention to domestic life. Shops began in 1820 with ads for Christmas purchases and around 1840 the newspapers did have 'separate pages for' holiday advertisements, which often had images of the new popular Santa Claus.

Meanwhile, in 1821 followed a new change to the Sankte Claus story. William Gilley printe a ten page booklet, entitled "A New year's Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve Number III: The children's Friend" written by an anonymous author. Through this booklet, the reindeer and the sleigh ware added to the Santa Claus tradition and the horse disappeared.
Gilley's Sante Claus in a Sleigh with a Reindeer It is a poem about (or from!!) "Santeclaus", who was dressed in furs and did ride in a sleigh pulled by a reindeerd.
So here came some Scandinavian influence in the life of SanteClaus.
When during an 1822 interview, William Gilley was questioned by New York's Troy Sentinel editor Orville L. Holley about who had written the booklet and who di come up with the topic of reindeer, Mr. Gilley did not identify the author, but he smiled and he said: "Dear Sir, the idea of Santeclaus was not mine nor was the idea of a reindeer." (see following full answer). This answer is later often wrongly quoted as; ""Dear Sir, the idea was not mine nor was it the idea of the reindeer."
This was his full answer: "Dear Sir, the idea of Santeclaus was not mine nor was the idea of a reindeer. The author of the tale but submitted the piece, with little added information. However, it should be noted that he did mention the reindeer in a subsequent correspondence. He stated that far in the north near the Arctic lands a series of animals exist, these hooven and antlered animals resemble the reindeer and are feared and honored by those around, as you see he claims to have heard they could fly from his mother. His mother being an Indian of the area."

The text of this poem and the Dutch translation by J.W. Koning are on this site on the page with the poem "tWas The Night Before Christmas".

In 1822 was the poem: "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas" published. Later it became even better known under the name "(' tWas) The Night before Christmas." For a long time it was believed that this poem was written by Clement Clarke Moore, a friend and neighbor of William Gilley. Nowadays it is assumed that it's from the hand of Henry Livingston, Jr. The text of this poem and the Dutch translation by J.W. Koning you'll find on another page on our site.
In the poem Santa is described as an elf with a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, which carried the names Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blixem. On the basis of their names they seemed to be 7 male reindeer with 1 female 7 (Vixen = bitch = Vice), but nowadays we know that Dancer and Cupid also are female reindeer.
Two reindeer were later renamed, Donder soon became Dunder (2nd edition of the poem) and later became Donner, and Blixem became Blitzen (also 2nd edition). The funny thing here is that Donder and the Dutch pronunciation of Blixem, in Dutch language do mean Thunder and Lightning, which both may refer to the Germanic god Donar (Lord of Thunder and lightning), as may refer to their speed (as fast as the sound or as fast as lightning) and also it may mean that they were naughty reindeer (dondersteen {thunderstone} and bliksem (lightning) were once nicknames for naughty boys). And even funnier is, that after this name change of these two reindeer, they actually still have the same name, but now with the German spelling and pronunciation. (Donner = German for Thunder, Blitz = German for Lightning).
This name changing contributed to J.W. Koning's conclussion that although Santa's first name (Saint Nicholas) did refer (maybe only at first) to the Dutch Saint Nicholas and that Santa's second name (Santa Claus) maybe did refer to the name the Dutch did also use (Sint Klaes/Claes), where he did not find proof that the name Sint Claes was already used in the early 1800, but that it is more likely that is does refer to the German name Sankt Nicolaus (Sankt Claus or Sankte Claus). Thus the Dutch Figur of Saint Nicholas (giftsbringer on the roof) with the German name (Sankte Claus) and German timing (25 december insted of 6 december).
Anyway, here Santa had for the first time 8 reindeer and also for the first time, just like the spirits of the dead at the Yule-party came through the smoke, he went in and out of the House through the chimney. A second reference to that entering through the smoke is (perhaps unintentionally) in his pipe, whose smoke curled around his head. In any case, taking off up the chimney through te smoke is almost a 'literally' image of the expression "going up in smoke" where the expression can mean both 'blending in' and 'disappearing'.
And here he was for the first time also called rounded/thick/firm, with a gently (small) belly. Note: Not a big belly!!
It is the beginning of the misconception that Santa himself is thick, that he seems thick is due to his thick winter clothing with double lining against the cold.

In 1841 a shopkeeper in Philadelphia (J.W. Parkinson), did hire a man, who dressed in a "KrisKringle" costume had to climb the chimney of his shop. Thousands of children came to this store to see their Santa Claus. This was the first known public appearance of Santa Claus/Kris Kringle.
It was just a matter of time before the other shops also wanted to lure the children, and their parents, with the poption to see a living (real) Santa Claus.

Many of the issues around Santa Claus, are thus all retrieved from European traditions.
- his means of transportation, first donkey (England, France, Germany) than horse (Dutch) than sleigh with reindeer (Scandinavia),
- his helpers, the Elves and Gnomes come from the Scandinavian Yuleman with his Nisses and/or Gnomes,
- his being unnoticed while bringing the gifts around, refers both to the art of Nisse to be invisible, as to the desire of Saint Nicholas in order not to be seen,
- his current public parade (comes from the St Nicholas parade),
- the Christmas tree (Luther, Germany),
- the mistletoe (England),
- the green ornaments and the lights (Yule-feast, Europe in general)
- and ofcourse his names (Santa Claus => from the Dutch 'Sinterklaas' and 'Sankte Claes', and from the German 'Sankte Claus'), ('Kirstkindle' which later did change into 'Kriss Kringle' => Germany) en Nicholas (also general European, although some say it comes from the Scandinavian Niels (Nicholas) which in turn is related to Nisse.)
- and yes than his appearance, it is often said that it is descended from the Red robe and Mitre of Saint Nicholas. But nothing could be further from the truth, it's the costume of the to the Weihnachtsmann tranformed Yuleman. As described later though. Only the red color could be borrowed from St Nicholas robe, while the Yuleman and father Christmas almost never wore a red coat. So the color borowed of the red Robe is more likely as the color red borrowed from a red Nisse hat.

The man who most contributed to the appearance of Santa Claus is Thomas Nast. He was born in Landau in the Palatinate (between Karlsruhe and Kaiserslautern) on 27 September 1840. On six-year-old age, he emigrated to America with his mother (his father followed 4 years later) and they went to live in New York in 1846. After his art study, Nast at the age of 15 years, got a job as an illustrator at Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. When he was 19, he already worked at Harper's Weekly and later he traveled, commissioned for other publications, to Europe, and visited his native region in Germany then also again. Soon he was a well-known artist of political cartoons. For example, the U.S. very familiar icons: 'Uncle Sam', the 'Democratic donkey' and the 'Republican elephant' arew from his hand. Less known to the general public is (yet) how many Nast has contribute to the appearance of Santa Claus.
From 1863 to 1890 the illustrator Thomas Nast made every year drawings of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper's Magazine. Usually these were black and white drawings in which Nast Santa did draw to his memories of the Weihnachtmann from Germany and he added later the pipe and the thickness of Santa Claus and the reindeer from 'The Night before Christmas'. After 1890, Nast regularly made picturebooks containing many Christmas pictures and images of Santa Claus.
On the right one of drawings of Nast's Santa from 1889.
 Thomas Nast's Merry Old Santa
Whhen later his Christmas picturebooks were republished with colors, Nast chose for a red dress for Santa Claus edged with white fur. Why just red and white is not known. That could be a reference to the Red robe and white albe from St Nicholas, but it is just as likely that he did just chose colors that both contrasted with green and yellow and also simultaneously did harmonised well with them. And it may even be that it was based on the traditional Yule colors.  Thomas Nast's Merry Old Santa in color

In 1869 there was in one of his books with Santa illustrations a poem by George P. Webster, who wrote that Santa did live at the North Pole. Two of the verses tell us that.

In a nice little city called Santa Claus-ville,
With its houses and church at the foot of the hill
Lives jolly old Santa Claus; day after day
He works and he whistles the moments away.
With his dog standing near him, and spy-glass in hand,
He looks for good children all over the land.
His home through the long summer months, you must know,
Is near the North Pole, in the ice and the snow.

The full poem is too long to place it here, it is therefore on the same page as "It was the night before Christmas"

In beginning of the 1890s, the Salvation Army (Salvation Army) did need money to pay the costs of the free Christmas meals, which they brought to poor families. They began to send unemployed men dressed up as Santa into the streets of New York to ask for donations. This was the time where Santa first began to use a Handbell.
These now oh-so-familiar Salvation Army Santa's since then have let each year their ringing bells be heard on the street corners of the American cities.

The tradition of Santa Claus got a huge rural (and decades later even global) support whenin 1897 an article in the New York Sun did appear.
Francis P Church, editor at the New York Sun, wrote an article in response to a letter from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon. She had written the newspaper asking if Santa Claus really did exist.
The article is known worldwide as the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" article. The full text of this article, and a Dutch translation of J.W. Koning are on the same poems page as "It was the night before Christmas"

In the years 1920-1930, partly due to the reprints in color of published Thomas Nast Santa illustrations, the appearance of Santa was established (standardized) as a bearded, bit too thick, cheerful man, in a red costume trimmed with white fur.
The New York Times wrote in 1927: "A standardized Santa Claus visited the New York children. Size, Weight and Stature are just as standard as the red costume, the hat and the white beard".

The image of this standard Santa Claus was used by the American graphic artist Haddon Sundblom and Cartonist, son of scandinavise immigrants, as a base when he in 1931 for the Coca-Cola Company had to draw a Santa Claus for a advertising campaign. For the looks of the face he used his friend and neighbor Lou Prentiss. After his friends death Sundblom would using a mirror to draw his own face. Until 1964, he draw every year at least one Santa Claus for the Coca-Cola-advertising and contributed in this way also to uniform (default) image of Santa Claus. That advertising was so successful that some people even believed that Coca Cola had invented (and owned) this standard form, something Coca Cola was also only too happy to let the people believe. There were even people who thought Santa Claus did belong to Coca Cola. Fortunately, Coca Cola admitted not so long ago on their own site finally that the looks and colors of Santa existed already a long time ago before their advertising campaign began and that they are not the boss and not the owners of Santa Claus. Undeniably it is true, that with these all years recurring global advertising actions of Coca Cola did contribute significantly to the worldwide acceptance of Santa Claus. And also today Coca Cola still has a Santa in their end-of-year commercials.  Santa with a train and a helicopter and a bottle of Coca Cola's

Since the 20th century the idea does exist that Santa Claus each year does create a list containing the names of all the children in the world, distributing them on the basis of their behavior in the categories in "naughty" or "nice". And that he is the than in the one night of Christmas Eve, brings the children around the world their gifts, ranging from toys and candy for the little children, to sometimes coal for the naughty children.
He gets this done with the help of the Elves and Gnomes who make toys in their workplaces and with help of the reindeer who pull his sleigh.
This idea is mainly created in 1934 by the text of the song "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", which was very popular.
In addition to his 8 Reindeer and his Elves (Alvs) and/or Gnomes, Santa got more help.
First he got, like its Finnish predecessor, a woman: Mrs. Claus, and later somee more reindeer. That first began in 1939 with a ninth reindeer:
In 1939 Copywriter Robert L. May from the Montgomery Ward Company wrote a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. May was as a child often scolded for "shy, small and thin". He invented a emitted reindeer with a shiny red nuis who was a hero on a foggy Christmas Eve. Santa was partly finished bringing gifts when the sight was less and less. Santa added reindeer Rudolph to his team to help to light the path. A copy of the poem was given free to every customer of the Montgomery Ward Company.

In 1949 Johnny Marks wrote the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Rudolph was moved to the North Pole where in the beginning he was refused by the other reindeer to participate in their reindeer games because his weird looking nose. The song was released on record by the famous singer Gene Autry and became his best-selling song ever. In addition to "White Christmas" it is now the most popular Christmas song.
 images/Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer_Marion Books.jpg

Jolly Old Saint Nick:
Father Christmas  So as we now know, very many people have helped to make Santa to the Santa as we know him today.
A bearded man with a light belly, long red fur-lined cloak with hood, mid-long coat edged with white fur, black belt, red pointed Cap (slack folded point with fur ball to the point) with white fur, red trousers, copper handbell and black boots with white fur lined.
It is a cheerful friendly man who has an open ear and attention to the needs of children.
In the hope that Santa will give gifts when he does visite the children, They on their turn leave him cookies (no oatmeal) and milk and there even is sometimes a carrot for Rudolph.
Santa in return puts the presents than under the Christmas tree and/or stops them in the socks that hang in front of the fireplace.
 Santa Claus

According to an American tradition, which can be followed back to the 1820s, Santa Claus lives somewhere near the North Pole (in December), with quite a number of magical elves, Gnomes, and nine (originally eight) flying reindeer. Note: Later there where more reindeer needed on the North pole (the second flyingteam, the backup flyingteam and some for traffic on the ground)
In Europe the people do also point out other places as the residence of Santa Claus.
Rovaniemi in Finland, for example, is also indicated as the residenceplace. According to the Danes does Julemanden (Santa Claus) live near Uummannaq in Greenland, which is part of the Danish Kingdom.
On the page about the customs around Santa Claus, his helpers, his animals and his hometown, we will come back on this extensively.
At this time we believe it is sufficient enough to point to the fact that Reindeer are those kind of (draught)animals that roam from tundra to tundra for their food. And that there is no food for them on the North Pole itself. They can however be there a while (in the adventtime)in a stable, ready for the big giftsbringing ride(s), but they do need the rest of the year (presumably together with Santa Claus and his wife) roam from summer pasture to summer meadow for their food and their condition and getting any young ones. And supposedly, Santa has also accommodations on those spots.

On its way St. Nick a true world citizen. He is a man without demonstrable nationality, but he does live in many countries somewhere along the Arctic circle and in the adventtijd even close to the North Pole.
Today Santa Claus is, after Jesus and Mary, the best known figure in the world, even in unexpected places such as the heart of Africa, China and the Middle East.

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Source Refering:

The Spirit of the
Wicca's tuintje

St.Nicholas Center

and last but not least the 'Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus Archive (Sinterklaas en Kerstman archief)' from J.W. Koning
which brought us so many special facts
and did lead us so very often back to the right direction were other sources did go astray.
If you borrow or copy knowhow/info from other sources, for example for a non commercial project, lecture or a scription,
then it show good manors to refer to those sources.
And we also expect you, when using info from our site, to refer to our sources.
(This for so far as they have to do with borrowed/copied part of our site.)
For commercial projects you must have a written permission from us and above that a written permission from our sources as far as the have a right on the info on our site.


The website is an initiative from private persons. The object with this site is to offer non commercial information about several aspects about the Histories of St Nicholas and Santa Claus and the believes and festivals around them and the customs belonging to those festivals. So parents and childeren will find it easier to keep the stories alive.

Disclaimer about the info:
This website is only ment to give parents and childeren correct informations about Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. The informations on this site are put together most carefully. But it is possible still that some of our information is; -not complete, not according to present (or newer) info, or could be explained in diverent ways, or even seems to hold uncorrect facts. We take no responcebility for the Juristic correctness of the info we have presented here, nor fot the effects of the here presented info and products, and also not for eventual demage (direct or indirect) which did happendgeleden as a result from using our informations. Using our informations is complete for the risk of the user.

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On this site are several links to other Saint and Santa related websites. There are soly there to inform our users. We have no influence and co contol on these sites and their contents and therefore we taken no responcability for eventual damage, direct or indirect, which happend by using the info's, products or services on these sites.

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