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1. The name is Claus…Santa Claus

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Every December 24th millions of people are visited by a short, fat guy in a red suit. Where did he come from, why does he do it, and how does he accomplish this seemingly impossible task? The man we know as Santa Claus has a history all his own. Today, he is thought of mainly as the jolly man in red, but his story stretches all the way back to the 3rd century. Read on to find out the fascinating history of Santa Claus…

2. That Guy in the Red Suit!

The origin of Santa Claus depends on which country's story you choose to adopt. Santa Claus comes from the Dutch words "Sinter Klaas", which is what they call their favorite saint, St. Nicholas. He is said to have died on December 6, A.D. 342. December 6th is celebrated as his feast day, and in many countries this is the day he arrives with his presents and punishments.

3. The original St. Nicholas

Well, the original St. Nicholas lived in southwestern Turkey in the 4th century. As the bishop of Myra he was credited with doing a number of miracles involving sailors and children. After his death this led him to become the patron saint of both groups as well as for unmarried girls. As a saint he was given his own "feast day" that was celebrated on December 6th.

4. Pope Julius made Santa

At about the same time Nicholas lived, Pope Julius I decided to establish a date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. As the actual time of year for this event was unknown, the Pope decided to assign the holiday to December 25th. There had long been a pagan midwinter festival at this time of year and the Pope hoped to use the holiday to Christianize the celebrations.

5. Sinter Klass

Eventually, Saint Nicholas's feast day also became associated with December 25th and his connection with Christmas was established. A tradition developed that he would supposedly visit homes on Christmas Eve and children would place nuts, apples, sweets and other items around the house to welcome him. As the reformation took a hold of much of Europe, however, the popularity of St. Nicholas dropped in most Protestant countries, with the exception of Holland where he was referred to as "Sinter Klaas."

6. The Legend of St Nicholas

The first story shows his generosity. There were three unmarried girls living in Patras who came from a respectable family, but they could not get married because their father had no dowries for the girls. The only thing the father thought he could do was to sell them when they reached the age to marry. Hearing of the imminent fate, Nicholas secretly delivered a bag of gold to the two elder daughters, who went on to become happily married.

7. And he became popular

According to the legend, Nicholas threw the bag through the window and it landed in the daughter's stocking, which she had hung by the fire to dry. Another version claims that Nicholas dropped the bag of gold down the chimney. By the time the youngest daughter was old enough for marriage, the father was determined to discover his daughters' benefactor. Nicholas, true to form, arrived and was seized, and his generosity was made known to all. Gradually, anyone who received an unexpected gift thanked St. Nicholas.

8. St. Nicholas and Children

One of the many stories told about St. Nicholas explains why he was made a patron saint of children. Once he stopped for the night at an inn. During the night he dreamt that three young sons of a wealthy Asian had been murdered and robbed by the innkeeper. The next morning St. Nicholas forced the innkeeper to confess. The three boys were still in their casks. St. Nicholas made the sign of the cross over them and they were restored to life.

9. Myth busted: Santa was not created by Coca Cola

Contrary to what many believe, Santa Claus as we know him today – sleigh riding, gift-giving, fat and white bearded with his distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur – was not the creation of the Coca Cola Company. Although their Christmas advertising campaigns of the 1930s and 40s played a very important role in popularising that image.

27. Controversy about deceiving children

Various psychologists and researchers have wrestled with the ways that parents collude to convince young children of the existence of Santa Claus, and have wondered whether children's abilities to critically weigh real-world evidence may be undermined by their belief in this or other imaginary figures.
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