We all know him – this corpulent man with a white beard, a red robe and a pointed hat, who is traveling around with either a sled or on foot. Exactly! It is Santa Claus.
But wait a moment! Doesn’t Santa Claus bring presents? But why here in Germany do we see this nice gentleman wandering around at December 6th? Why not on Christmas Eve?
In the last few years, two customs that actually have the same origin, were mixed together.
Two customs – One origin
In Germany, the “St. Nicholas Day” is celebrated and St. Nicholas is coming to town on December 6th (ok, ok, in Northern Germany, on December 5th ;-)). In the U.S. this custom doesn’t exist, because the “Santa Claus” comes at Christmas and does exactly the same as in Germany on December 6th. He gives presents to the (honest) people.
One might think the good man needs a little time to get across the pond. But actually it is another man or custom. There, the “Santa Claus” comes to the houses but not by knocking at the door (as it is usual in Germany), but breaking into the house through the chimney, while the residents are asleep. Sometimes, he eats all the cookies lying around, always he leaves gifts under the Christmas tree.
Logically … it can not just be one and the same person 🙂
Who is St. Nicholas? And who is Santa Claus?
The well-known (and for quite a few children also terrifying) white bearded St. Nicholas is a figure from Christian history. He was a bishop who lived and worked around 300 AD, in an area what is today southern Turkey (Lycia) . His name was “Nicholas of Myra”. He has done some miracles, especially for children and was therefore worshiped after his death.
From thereon the custom of St. Nicholas evolved. But why on December 6th?
Originally, this was the actual day of giving Christmas presents. Only through the Reformation in Germany, the giving of Christmas presents moved to December 24th and St. Nicholas was replaced in Germany by the “Christkind” (young Jesus Christ). The custom of St. Nicholas did not disappear, but still exists on December 6th. Because of these shifts, the second figure was created (mainly in the U.S.) – Santa Claus. He still comes on december 24th (Christmas) to the people.
Why red clothes?
St. Nicholas doesn’t wear red clothes. He appears in traditional bishops clothing and a miter on the head. Santa, however, wears the well-known red clothes. Sometimes these different outfits are mixed together and you can see St. Nicholas with a red bishop dress. But actually, the red “design” was invented in the U.S. and a well known Cola-manufacturer refined it and marketed it accordingly.
So to impress your friends with knowledge, just remember the following facts:
Nicholas was a bishop in what is now Turkey
Nicholas performed miracles and is therefore worshipped until today
Santa Claus was created because of the reformation (16th century)
The red coat was invented in the United States. St. Nicholas actually wears bishops clothes.