Arts & Culture Commentary Holiday

The True Story of Santa Claus

By Abby Bishop

Saint Nicholas–the man we see as a plump elderly man in a red suit with a fluffy white beard and rosy red cheeks– was actually a Bishop from the area that is now Turkey. Here is the story:

There was poor man with three daughters. The man didn’t have enough money to pay the dowry (a sum of money paid to the groom on the wedding day by the bride’s parents). Saint Nicholas heard about this and dropped a bag of gold down the chimney. The bag happened to fall into a stocking that was hanging by the fire to dry. The family could now pay the dowry and their oldest daughter could get married. Saint Nicholas did the same thing for the second daughter. The father was now determined to figure out who was leaving such generous and secretive gifts. He waited every night and eventually saw Saint Nicholas dropping the gold down the chimney. Saint Nicholas begged the man not to tell anyone, but word soon got out. After that, every time a surprise gift arrived, the people believed it was from Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas; image from:

Eventually, countries around the world began developing their own versions of an old man that comes and brings gifts in the night. Today, most people recognize a red suit, a sleigh, and eight reindeer and know instantly who it is. Santa Claus (derived from the early America saying “Sinterklaas”), or St. Nick, has countless stories, movies, and songs mentioning the jolly old chap. Santa brings joy to children all over the world. He is the very concept of giving. He is believed in, even though no one has ever actually seen him.

image from:

So even if you don’t believe in a jolly, rosy-cheeked, sleigh-driving man wiggling his way down everyone’s chimneys on Christmas Eve, you probably believe in giving and making the world a better place, which is exactly what the original Saint Nicholas stood for.

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