Arts and Culture

The Unusual History of Santa Claus

Posted on: Wed 23 Dec 2020

Christmas is in 2 sleeps and for most of us, it will be spent with family and friends, unwrapping presents whilst a fat stranger gets credit for all of mum and dad’s hard work. It may have crossed your mind what the origin of ‘Santa’ or ‘Father Christmas’ is, and we’re not quite sure why fictional man dressed in red is such an icon for this universally celebrated holiday.

The folklore of Santa Claus begun through the tale of Nicholas the mirror. He was a renowned miracle worker and is the reason for gift giving to this day. St Nicholas’ generosity begun when he helped a small family with five kids who were struggling financially. The family were concerned they had to sell their kids to slavery; however, St Nicholas threw bags of gold into their windows to save the day.

 Other traditions as we know today originated in the St Nicholas day, including his ability to teleport, when he saved people at sea. The flying reindeer idea came from Reindeer herders in Northern Scandinavia who fed reindeer’s magic mushrooms. They would jump around, giving the impression of flying, whilst herders would drink reindeer urine to receive a similar high, imagining the flight from the reindeer.

Throughout history, Santa had a strict moral code with rewarding nice children and the anonymous visit from St Nicholas, known as the night before Christmas.

Louise Pryke, Lecturer of Languages and Literature of Ancient Israel at Macquarie University and Christopher Malone, Honorary Associate from the University of Sydney joins Breakfast’s Zoe Kounadis about the unusual history of Santa Claus.

Produced by Kate Johnson

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


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