Santa Claus with child

Santa Claus - myths and facts

Santa Claus started as the Saint Nicolaos, the holy Nicolaos from Myra, who was very popular - also in Denmark and not only for Christmas.

Santa Claus comes from Turkey

Santa Claus takes his starting point with the holy Nicolaos. According to the legend he was a bishop in Myra in the current Turkey around year 300. Nicolaos was the son of a wealthy family, but spend his fortune on good deeds.

Santa Claus' miracles

Nicolaos also worked miracles. The story goes that once he brought three school boys back to life. He brought them back to life even though they had been slaughtered and salted in a barrel by a landlord and landlady. Nicolaos was extremely popular as a saint for sailors and for children. In Denmark during the Reformation many churches were blessed with Nikolaj. Actually only the Virgin Mary has named more churches than him.

Santa Claus at sea

The great number of Nikolaj-churches is very closely connected with Nicolaos' reputation as protector of the ships. When William the Conqueror in 1066 shaped the course for England to fight the Nordic vikings, a storm came. The fleet came into trouble. Not until the name of Saint Nicolaos was called, the weather improved. William was able to continue his famous expedition that gave him the name "Conqueror".

Santa Claus in Denmark for the first time

The first time you meet Santa Claus in Denmark, he appears as "Den Gamle Jul" - or "The old Christmas". In the story "Peters Jul" from 1866 he is walking through the city wearing big boots. "Den Gamle Jul" is not a typical Santa Claus as we know him because he brings no presents. He is inspired by the German Christmas figure Herr Winter who is a mix of Winter and Christmas. He brings in the Christmas tree, but no presents. "Den Gamle Jul" in the story "Peters Jul" has a small candle in his hat, he walks around listening at the doors. Houses with naughty children he passes, but he visits all houses with good children. Here he takes the candle and lights the Christmas tree. And now the Christmas spirits spreads out.

Presents from Santa Claus

Gradually Santa Claus also delivers presents. In 1898 Louis Moe publishes the book "Julemandens Bog". Here children in Denmark for the first time read the Danish version of the story about Santa Claus sitting up North, painting toys and waiting for Christmas.

At Christmas he leaves to deliver the presents. On his way he takes his time to cut down Christmas trees that he also brings. The elf and the Christmas angle help him.

The clothing of Santa Claus

The clothing of Santa Claus however was not inspirered by Saint Nicolaos. In murals and similar Saint Nicolaos is never wearing red and white. The red suit, the sleigh with reindeers, the wintry background and residence on the North Pole or Greenland are all modern additions. In the first American descriptions Santa Claus is wearing a skin doublet, later on he got his current suit, but not until in the 1900s his suit was red and white.

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Did you know...

that Santa Claus' clothing was made by an advertising company. Rumour has that Santa Claus got his bright red clothing when Coca-Cola Company used the well-known Santa Claus with red clothing, white beard and a belt in their marketing campaign. Read about this and other facts and myths about Christmas.

Myths and facts about Christmas


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