One story tells of a poor man and his three daughters. With no money to get his daughters married, he was worried what would happen to them after his death. Saint Nicholas knowing the anguish of the father, stopped by the man’s house after the family had gone to bed. He had three bags of gold coins with him, one for each girl. Seeing the daughters stockings hung over the fireplace for drying, he put one gold bag in each stocking and left. The girls waking up the next morning, they each found a bag of gold coins in their stocking. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or simply “Santa”, is a figure which was derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, a historical, legendary figure who in many Western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December or on his Feast Day, December 6 (Saint Nicholas Day). The legend may have part of tales concerning the historical figure of gift giver Saint Nicholas.
While Saint Nicholas was originally portrayed wearing bishop’s robes, today Santa Claus is generally depicted as a plump, jolly, white-bearded man wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots.
This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. This has become the popular image and depicted through song, radio, television, and films. In the United Kingdom and Europe, he is often depicted in a manner identical to the American Santa Claus, but he is commonly called Father Christmas.
Traditionally, in the weeks between his arrival and 5 December, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the fireplace chimney of the coal-fired stove or fireplace. In modern times, they may put them next to the central heating unit. They leave the shoe with a carrot or some hay in it and a bowl of water nearby “for Sinterklaas’ horse”, and the children sing a Sinterklaas song. The next day they will find some candy or a small present in their shoes.
Typical Sinterklaas treats traditionally include: hot chocolate, mandarin oranges, pepernoten, letter-shaped pastry filled with almond paste or chocolate letter which was the first letter of the child’s name made out of chocolate.
Stop back soon! I will be putting up posts on the Origin of the Christmas Tree and the Origin of his Reindeer!