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Santa Claus

Holiday Figure

Born: ?
Birthplace: The North Pole
Best known as:

The jolly toy-delivering hero of Christmas

Also known as: St. Nicholas; Kris Kringle; Father Christmas

Santa Claus is the mythical figure who delivers toys to children around the world each year on Christmas Eve. According to legend, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and oversees a toy workshop run by busy elves. Each December 24th, on the eve of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, Santa is said to fly around the world delivering his toys in a sled pulled by eight reindeer: Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder (or Donner), Prancer, and Vixen. (A ninth reindeer with a shiny nose, Rudolph, was introduced in Gene Autry's 1949 country music hit "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.") The name Santa Claus was derived from Sinterklaas, the Dutch term for the ancient Christian figure of Saint Nicholas. According to tradition, Saint Nicholas lived in the region of Lycia (now in Turkey) during the 4th century AD. The Santa Claus myth was popularized in America by the 1823 poem "A Visit From Saint Nicholas," attributed to Clement Moore. 

Extra credit:

The poem "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" begins, "'Twas the night before Christmas, and all thro' the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse"... In the early 1860s cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa as a round, bearded man in a red suit, an image that stuck... An 1897 editorial by Frank P. Church in the New York Sun coined the famous phrase "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Church was replying to a letter from a young reader, Virginia O'Hanlon, who asked if Santa Claus really existed... According to the Encarta encyclopedia, the nickname Kris Kringle evolved from the German words for Christ child, Christkindl.

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