No Christmas tradition is more well-known or beloved than Santa Claus. This jolly man has grown and changed over countless generations to become the famed figure that children around the world write to every year. For a bit of festive fun, let’s take a quick look back at what has led to the modern man in red.
The monk who would become St. Nicholas was born around 280 A.D. near Myra (modern day Turkey). He was known for his piety and kindness, and the stories about his generosity and miracles made him one of the most popular saints in Europe. Nicholas’s habit of giving gifts is a result of this general good nature as well as a specific story where he helped give a poor father a dowry to use for his three daughters, thus saving them from prostitution or slavery. Either out of humility or to spare the family the embarrassment of taking charity, Nicholas delivered purses full of gold coins—one for each daughter—one by one during the night each daughter came of age. On the third night, since the father had caught on and was going to stay up to catch his benefactor, Nicholas dropped the purse down the chimney instead.
As Christians and their religion spread across Europe, St. Nicholas began to get mixed with attributes from other faiths. In particular, the Christianization of the continent’s Germanic people saw St. Nicholas mingle with pagan Yule celebrations. Yule was a period associated with increased supernatural activity. In particular, Yule marked the appearance of Wodan, who had a flowing white beard and rode a flying horse as he visited people while they slept. These traits, along with elements like the Yule log and carolling, ended up getting folded into St. Nicholas and Christmas as a whole.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas evolved into a figure called Sinterklaas or Sint-Nicolaas, who is celebrated on December 5, the night before Saint Nicholas Day. Sinterklaas is depicted as a stately figure with flowing white hair and beard along with fine red and white robes and furs. This colour scheme, along with the name, ended up getting brought over to North America by colonists, where the name became Santa Claus around 1773.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the popular image of Santa became refined as different poets, cartoonists, and illustrators left their mark. Elements like the sleigh, pipe, and reindeer were popularized by Clement Moore’s “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” which later became known as “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore’s description of Santa was used by cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1881 when he drew a large, fat, cheery man with a rich white beard and sack full of toys. Nast, incidentally, is also connected to the popularization of the modern Santa suit, the North Pole workshop, the elf helpers, and even Mrs. Claus.
From this point onwards, different contributors and even advertising campaigns made their own tweaks and takes on the figure, but the essential elements were already set in place. Only time will tell if Santa Claus will evolve further, but for now it is enough to simply marvel at the centuries-long journey the character has already taken.
Santa Claus is far more than the man who comes down the chimney on December 25th. All throughout the holiday season, you can find Santa at MVR Cash & Carry in the form of chocolates and decorations to spruce up your business’s Christmas spirit or to sell to customers looking for the same. What makes MVR Cash & Carry the best choice for being your Christmas wholesale supplier is that we are not open to the public. Our membership is reserved exclusively for business owners, and we have tailored our inventory to meet all of their professional needs. That means we offer the prices, volume, and top brands that every business wants.
Come by our Toronto warehouse store at any point from 7am to 4pm and pick out the best festive brands for your business. If you have special requests or specific needs, feel free to look for any of our managers (or even the owner!) on the floor and we will be happy to do the utmost to satisfy your needs.