The Evolution of Santa Claus


Thompson Bookman

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas, the most popular Saint in Europe during the Renaissance. He was admired for his holiness and kindness and was praised for sharing his wealth.  

 In 1809 Washington Irving helped popularize St. Nicholas, when he referred to him as the Patron Saint of New York, in his book, The History of New York. As he rose in popularity he was described as everything from a man with a blue three-corned hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings, to a man wearing a broad brimmed hat and a pair of Flemish trunk hose. 

Gift giving has been an important part of the holiday season since the early 19th century. Stores began advertising Christmas shopping in the 1820s and by the 1840s newspapers were reserving sections for holiday advertisements that featured Santa Claus. Stores began advertising “live Santas” to entice families to come visit their store. 

Santa Claus has become a cultural icon and a fundamental part of the holiday season. He touches the hearts of children today, just as St. Nicholas did during the Renaissance.