Christmas – How relevant is Santa Claus?

Christians are celebrating Christmas for the last 2000 years. Some of us might know Christmas as the holiday season. Others might think it’s a good season for shopping. Some others who might not even believe in God may think it’s a great season for celebration and time to get-together as a family. Over the years there are many things which were thrust into Christmas based on commercial and cultural influence. These at times have overtaken the true meaning of Christmas itself. Let’s take a look at one of them.

Santa Claus:

Many of us cannot think of a Christmas Celebration without Santa Claus. Santa excites every kid around the world. But what is the relationship between Christmas and Santa Claus? The modern days Santa Claus was derived from the life Saint Nicholas (AD 270 to 343). But there are sharp differences between Santa Claus and Saint Nicolas both in terms of image and Character. Saint Nicholas had broken nose due to the torture he had to go through during the period of Roman emperor Diocletian. He was born and lived in Turkey, where we don’t need to travel in sledge and reindeer as there was no ice.

Saint Nicolas did help the poor anonymously but there was no mention of him going around hiding gifts under kids bed. Not much authentic information was recorded from the life of Saint Nicolas except his work as bishop of Myra, persecution he went through, suffering in prison and participation in the council of Nicaea in AD 325 during the reign of Constantine Noble. Most of the folktales have originated a few hundred years post his death, with a very high probability of inaccurate records about his life.

Well, how Saint Nicolas became Santa Claus?

The cult of Nicholas became popular once his remains were transferred from Turkey to Italy in the year AD 1087 (almost 700 years after his death). Dutch called Saint Nicholas as Sinterklaas (Sint – Nicholas). According to Dutch culture, he arrived from Spain (Based on the folktale he calmed the sea and saved the sailors. Dutch sailors picked up the tale from Spanish sailors) and gave gifts to good Children and returned back to Spain every year. 

How Santa Claus became famous?

The Dutch brought their Sinterklaas to the US and it evolved as the time progressed. The poetry of Clement Clarke Moore - A Visit from St. Nicholas in the year 1823 for his family use became famous and made Santa Claus popular. Thomas Nast a famous cartoonist contributed to the current image of Santa Claus in the year 1864. In the year 1868 for the first time, the Cartoonist Sugar Plums version of Santa was introduced with the red color jacket. From early 20th century, Coca-Cola started using Santa Claus in their advertisement campaigns. You can read more about it here Coca-Cola website. Coca-Cola advertisements played important role in embedding Santa Claus and Red color in Christmas.

It would be difficult to compare the modern and commercial version of Santa Claus with Saint Nicholas (refer the picture at the top) and what he went through in actual life. Keeping the commercial part apart, the question to be asked is whether Santa Claus in any way associated to the life of Christ and the context of Christmas?

Here are some videos from Coca-Cola official YouTube Channel:

How Coca-Cola Introduced Santa Claus ?

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