Holidays are often rooted in historical tradition. Valentine’s Day was aptly named after St. Valentine who married couples as a vigilante priest. Centuries after, it’s a day widely celebrated by the world as a day to commemorate affection and celebrating love. Easter is rooted in the symbolic reference to Jesus Christ’s rebirth, though the connection to bunnies laying chocolate eggs may have come from another mixed culture.

Christmas also has Christian roots as the birthday of Jesus Christ, though old calendars would suggest that it occurs several months earlier than the Gregorian Calendar’s December 25. Besides the birth of Christ, Christmas is also familiar to another prominent figure of the holiday, the magical Santa Claus.

Santa Claus’ origin

Santa is based on the life and times of St. Nicholas of Myra; the devoted Christian dedicated his life to being of service to the poor and sharing gifts with his community. His acts of good deeds were spread across the lands as he would eventually face canonisation as a Saint in being a symbol of goodness and charity. The name ‘Santa Claus’ had Dutch origins. As the story of St. Nick passed from different cultures, his popularity earned him many names such as Father Christmas and Sinter Klass, which is the basis of the name Santa Claus.

Santa’s outfit

If you were to look up St. Nicholas’ depictions in images, he doesn’t look that familiar to the much recognised jolly and chubby old man. Though great inspiration from his features and traditional red bishop’s robe are familiar with his current outfit, Santa Claus’ modern design and depiction were made famous by the illustrator Thomas Nast. His depictions of Santa Claus as a much bulkier figure with a bright red suit and matching black boots and belt made it the standard as the current iteration of the myth.

Santa using the postal service

Based on the lore, Santa’s magical ability to figure out whether a child is naughty or nice is by looking at his extensive directory of children’s names with a corresponding rating. What parents did back in the day was write their children a letter from Santa detailing their kids’ activities and good behaviour throughout the year, making the children react in utter disbelief at the magical figure who knows about what they’ve been up to in the past year. The parents, using the myth and stories of Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus,  used the letters to help their kids learn from their mistakes and praise their good behaviour.

Organisations have held projects and activities to help children in need by allowing them to write letters to Santa detailing what they want for Christmas. Though most children wish for toys as gifts, children who do not fancy gadgets as much hope for more crucial things in their lives such as the chance to study, to have a better home, or even to get better from a terminal illness. Santa is a symbol of hope and charity for the holidays, and his spirit lives on among those who are willing to commit small acts of charity.