Hard Questions About the Bible

Some people believe that the Bible is full of myths and legends.  One reason may be confusion over ideas about Christmas, like Santa Claus.  My source is Wikipedia.

The original inspiration for Santa Claus is probably Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Greek Christian Bishop who lived in what is now Turkey.  He was famous for giving gifts to the poor.

Another influence may be the German pagan god Odin, who was celebrated during the pagan festival of Yule in December.  He was believed to lead a great hunting party in the sky, riding an 8-legged horse (inspiration for the eight reindeer).  Children would fill their boots with treats for Odin’s horse, and leave them near the chimney, in return they would find gifts or candy.

In Northern Europe, Saint Nicholas was called Sinterklaas.  He was supposed to arrive each November by steam boat, with a book listing good and naughty children.  During the next weeks, following from Odin, he was believed to ride a horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children.  Sinterklaas was depicted as a stately, serious elderly man with white hair and long beard, wearing a red cape over a bishop’s robe.

Many modern attributes of Santa come from the poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823, including the sleigh, bag full of toys, the eight tiny reindeer and even their names, and the description of the ‘jolly old elf’.

Santa’s home in the North Pole may have originated in cartoons by the American political cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 1860s.

The picture of Santa most people are familiar with, a portly old man with white beard, red suit with with white fur trim, originated from Puck Magazine covers in the early 1900s, and was firmly established by illustrations in Coca Cola Christmas advertisements from the 1930s.

While the inspiration for Santa Claus may have been a Christian bishop, it is not from the Bible, and is not connected to Christ’s birth.  The story of Saint Nicholas was twisted in so many ways to become the Santa we know today.

Next: Christmas in America

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