The History of Santa Claus

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Photo by Jesson Mata on Unsplash

For as long as anyone can remember, Santa Claus has played a big role in the Christmas season. We all know him—bright red cheeks, fuzzy white beard, and a red suit. Who exactly is this mysterious, fat, jolly man who visits children all over the world in one night and leaves gifts? Well, let’s have some fun and explore the history of Santa Claus. 

The Man, The Myth, The Legend 

Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years. Some trace the big guy’s origins all the way back to the real life Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was known for doing good deeds throughout his life and bringing a spirit of giving and joy. “The name Santa Claus evolved from St. Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas, which is Dutch for Saint Nicholas” (The History Channel, November 2023, 

Santa Claus: Real Origins & Legend). In New York, Dutch families would gather to honor the anniversary of Saint Nicholas’s death. Stockings were hung and filled with fruit and small toys for children. 

The giving of gifts (particularly centered around children) has been a large part of the Christmas celebration since the early 19th century. In 1820, stores began advertising for Christmas shopping. By 1840 this practice had escalated to stores having special Christmas advertisements featuring the image of the man we know as Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army began its traditional collecting of money by ringing bells on street sidewalks. Often, these workers were dressed up as Santa Claus. 

It has become a tradition for children to line up at department stores for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap and have their pictures taken while they tell him what they want most for Christmas. You might have even written a letter to Santa at the North Pole when you were younger! 

While Santa Claus is depicted in many different ways (and goes by many different names) all around the world, the typical depiction of Santa in the United States is that of the man in the red suit. His flying sleigh is pulled by his reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and, sometimes, Rudolph. Santa visits each house on Christmas Eve, slips down the chimney, and leaves gifts for the boys and girls on his nice list. Legend says that those on the naughty list get nothing but a lump of coal in their stocking. 

On Christmas morning, children wake up excited to see what Santa has left them. We can’t confirm or deny whether Santa is real, but just in case, remember he sees you when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake. Make sure you don’t end up on the naughty list this year!

After all of that work, we know Santa needs to take some time to relax. So, Santa, if you’re reading this, please consider using On Air Parking to park your sleigh during your next vacation. We’d be glad to have you. Happy Holidays!