Santa Claus, Past and Present

Santa Claus is a modern day favorite of fictional characters. This gift giving fictional character has been around for centuries. Let’s take a look at the past and present of Santa Claus.

The Past:

Santa Claus, also referred to as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, and Kris Kringle, has existed as a fictional character of Christmas for centuries.

Even in America, Santa Claus goes back to 16th or 17th century. The idea of Santa Claus started with a Turkish monk called St. Nicholas. This monk is said to have inherited a large fortune, and rather than keep it, he used it to help the poor, the needy, etc. He traveled the world, or at least the country, giving gifts, helping the poor, and bringing joy to all whose paths he crossed.

The story of St. Nicholas has been told for centuries because of his kindness. Many countries celebrated him. And, this legend and story made its way to the Americas, where Dutch immigrants celebrated St. Nicholas’s generosity and kindness.

A few years later, Clement Clark Moore, an Episcopal minister wrote a Christmas poem for his children which characterized Santa Claus as a “jolly old elf”, that came through the chimney to deliver gifts. Then, Thomas Nast a popular political cartoonist, drew a version of Santa Claus as we know him today, red suit, round belly, and so on.


The present Santa Claus started out as a mis-match set of ideas. Some pictured him one way, others another. However, over time, with the help of poets, artists, and the marketing dollars of big box stores, the idealistic image we now know was created. Now what we see is a jolly old elf who wears red clothes, makes toys with the elves, and only gives them to good boys and girls. He lives on the North Pole. He eats cookies and milk as the staple of his diet. The new Santa Claus is a somewhat commercialized version created by various members of society, and promoted by stores at Christmas time.

So, Let’s Compare:

While in the past, Santa Claus was a living saint who helped others. The present is the fictional character who brings gifts to children.

The past Santa Claus lived in Turkey, and was a monk, who traveled all year round helping the poor. The present Santa Claus lives in the cold and snowy North Pole, prepares for Christmas all year long, but only helps people once a year, on Christmas Eve.

The past Santa Claus worked alone. The present works with the help of many little elves in his toy factory.

The old St. Nicholas walked across the countryside, throughout the year. The present Santa Claus boards a sleigh, holding a bag of toys for all the good little boys and girls, which is pulled by eight reindeer, or nine if you count the red nosed Rudolph, and flies around the world in one night.

The past Santa Claus walked and probably knocked on doors to help people. The present fictional Santa Claus slides down chimneys and leaves presents under trees.

The past Santa Claus was a thin monk. The present Santa Claus is an overweight, old elf.

So, you can see, there are some major differences, but also some real similarities.

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