Every kid knows that Santa Claus lives in Lapland.
Lapland is located in the far north, near the Arctic Circle. There are long winters and short summers. There are polar nights when the sun does not appear above the horizon and darkness alternates with dusk for several days. There’s a lot of snow and the northern lights. There are reindeer and Santa’s helpers – Elves who work hard all year round to make gifts for the big and small.
But then how did it all start? What is the History of Santa Claus?
The history of St.Nicholas
Nicholas was born in the 3rd century to wealthy Christian parents in Patara (a harbor city in modern-day Turkey). At the age of 17, he became a monk and began studying theology, at the age of 25 he became the Archbishop of Myra (a harbor city just south and east of Patara).
As the son of wealthy parents, he spent his wealth helping the poor and taking special care of the children by gifting them with various gifts.
There is a lot of stories about Nicholas’ life – many of them emphasize his kindness and generosity. One of them tells of a father with three daughters who could not marry because they were poor. Nicholas heard about it and decided to help. He put a bag of gold money on the window sill of an eldest and middle daughter. When the younger daughter’s turn came, the window was closed. But Nicholas wasn’t distracted, he climbed onto the roof of the house and put the money bag through the chimney. At that moment, socks were drying there and they filled up with gold.
Nicholas was proclaimed Saint Nicholas after his death on the 6th of December. To honor him a tradition of gift-giving was begun.
In 1087, his remains were abducted by pirates from the church of Myra, where Nicholas served as Archbishop and transported to Italy. A huge scandal broke out, but the story of St. Nicholas was spreading to more and more places, reaching many parts of the world.
As the story unfolded, there was also a tradition on December 6, on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, to put booties behind the door or hang socks in front of the fireplace to find presents in the morning. In some European countries, this tradition has been preserved up to the present day.
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December 6th is still the main day for gift giving in many countries in Europe. In other countries, from the 14th Century, the day of gifts was moved because of the Reformation and its opposition to the worship of saints and now happens on the 24th and 25th December.
How St. Nicholas became Santa Claus
In the 19th century, emigrants from Holland took the story of St. Nicholas to America, where it gradually transformed into the Santa Claus we know today – in a red coat with a long white beard.
First, in 1822, Clement Clark Moore wrote the book “A Visit from St. Nicholas” better known today as “The Night Before Christmas”. This is the story of a little boy who meets Saint Nicholas at Christmas, who slips through the sky in a sleigh of eight reindeer. He stops at each house and delivers gifts to the children through the chimney.
St. Nicholas is described as being “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” with “a little round belly”, that “shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly”, in spite of which the “miniature sleigh” and “tiny reindeer” still indicate that he is physically diminutive. The reindeer were also named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem.
The book and Santa Claus became popular not only in the US but also elsewhere in the world.
The image of Santa Claus was materialized in 1931 by artist Haddon Sundblom to promote the company Coca- Cola drink during the Christmas season. Now, this drink is on every Christmas table in the US.
Since then, the image of Santa Claus has been popularised through television, movies and children’s storybooks.
In the 20th century, Santa Claus gradually moved from the cold North Pole to Lapland, where there is no eternal frost and reindeer have something to eat. In 1927, Markus Rautio, who hosted “Children’s Hour” on Finnish public radio, first announced that Santa Claus lives in Lapland.
It is also possible to go there to look at Santa Claus, who is staying there all year long, reading letters and listening to the gifts children want to receive at Christmas.