Have you ever wondered where the name Santa Claus came from? Or who St Nicholas was? Who is Father Christmas? And why have they all become synonymous with the giving of Christmas presents? Well, if you have, we’ll clear everything up for you.
Contrary to popular belief, Santa Claus and Father Christmas are different legends. Father Christmas was a pagan figure who represented the coming of spring. He wore a long hooded green cloak and a wreath of ivy, mistletoe or holly. In the 5th and 6th centuries Britain fell under Saxon rule and he took on the attributes of the Saxons’ Father Time (also called King Winter).
Santa Claus is actually Saint Nicholas, (Claus is a corruption of Nikolaus), who was an orphan born near Myra in modern-day Turkey in the third century. He was taken in and was raised by a Christian family during times of terrible persecution. He inherited a great deal of money from his family and it is said that he gave away everything he had inherited and travelled the country helping the poor and sick.
He gained a reputation for giving in secret. One legend has it that he heard of a very poor man whose daughters were to be sold into prostitution. To save them, he put money into a bag and threw it into their home at night and ran away. Worrying that he had not provided enough he returned a second time and then a third. On his third return his money bag fell into one of the daughter’s stockings which were hanging up to dry, and it is from this story that we have the legend of Saint Nicholas filling people’s stockings at night with gifts.
Over the course of his life, kind and generous Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors.
To this day the legend of St Nicholas encourages us every year during the festive season not only to give each other gifts but also to give gifts to those who are less fortunate than us. A legend that will continue to live on forever.
If you’re looking forward to Christmas this year why not browse our bookstore and get put a book into someone’s Christmas sack this festive season!