Old Saint Nick: A brief history of the journey from man to myth

Jacob Babbitt Tom, Reporter

Santa Claus: a legacy of a patron saint or a commercial icon? It turns out, the truth is a bit of both.

Many people remember fondly writing to Santa Claus when they were children, and many people remember receiving many gifts from Saint Nick himself. But speaking of Saint Nick, who really was he?

The actual Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop in Turkey. He was a merciful man who helped the poor and the wrongfully accused. He reportedly helped three people off of death row and went on to help a very unfortunate fellow who was so poor he was tempted to sell his three daughters into slavery, but then one night he snuck into their ho

use and left a bag of money inside for them. As you can see, he left behind a generous trail and had many people that had followed him until he passed due to natural causes on Dec. 6, 343 AD, 


ending his saintly time on Earth.

 However, as his story grew and gained traction in other countries, myth overtook the man. In German folklore, he became Santa Claus, and he and everyone’s favorite demon Krampus is used to scare children into being good. Krampus’s name was derived from the German word for claw and the name of Hel, a god who ruled the underworld in Norse mythology. The two figures kind of function like a good cop, bad cop team to ensure children behave.

As for his beginnings in the Americas, that started during the Old West when people began to settle down and celebrate religious holidays. During this period of west

ern expansion is when Santa’s well known names developed, and also his American superpowers of being able to slide down any sized chimney whether or not a fire is going underneath and his ability to fly across the sky in a sleigh with magical reindeer.

The jolly version portrayed in North American stories and movies is largely a result of Norman Rockwell’s art and Coca Cola’s advertising. Norman Rockwell was renowned artist and made many advertisements for many companies, and his ads, in particular, affected how people forever saw Santa. This version has Santa in his red fur lined suit, and that image has stood the test of time and has stayed with people everywhere. It still is the inspiration for nearly every modern conception of Santa in movies and advertising. It portrays his jolly persona perfectly, and that always stuck with him since his beginning.