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Santa Claus
Melsanta
The (oddly timed) 666 issue of Four Color Comics.

Real Name

Kris Kringle / Father Christmas / Saint Nicholas

First Appearance

Unknown

Original Publisher

European and North American folklore

Created by

The World

Origin

Santa Claus, a character who delivers gifts worldwide on Christmas Eve, is a personification of Christmas, based rather loosely on Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, and Sinterklaas. As Santa Claus’ popularity skyrocketed, many of his attributes were passed backwards to Father Christmas, Père Noël, Sinterklaas, and Ded Moroz who are nowadays all considered variations of the same wintertime-gifting character.

Santa Claus' origin has been told various ways by various authors. Here is what is widely known about Santa Claus:

Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) lives with his wife at or near the North Pole where there is always snow (although other Arctic or Subarctic locations are sometimes specified, like Iceland or Lapland). Every Christmas Eve, he packs his sleigh and flies around the world delivering gifts to children. His sleigh is usually pulled by eight flying reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen, a slight variation on Clement C. Moore's original roster (with most appearances now including a ninth as well). The gifts are made by a group of elves who also live at the North Pole. He keeps a list of which children are "naughty" and which are "nice," only delivering gifts to the "nice" ones by climbing down chimneys and leaving the presents under a Christmas tree or in stockings.

In some stories, he has children: The 1892 play, Santa Claus’ daughter, portrays Santa Claus as a king, “Ruler of the Kingdom of the North Pole,” where he lives with his wife and daughte, Kitty, in a “Snow Castle” or “Snow‐palace” and has a male secretary named Gussie de Smythe who prepares the annual directory of gift recipients. The kingdom is defended by “Amazons” composed of a band of “Snow‐fairies” with their own queen, as well as personifications of the (US) holidays: Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. Santa Claus is said to be hundreds of years old and that “one of the conditions of [his] becoming immortal and the Christmas Saint” is his not being allowed to leave the North Pole but once a year.

The 1894 play “The Conquest of Santa Claus” portrays Santa and Mrs. Claus as having two children, Bertha and Fritz.

In “There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane,” Santa Claus’ father is both the Baker and the Pieman, combined into one character; his mother is an original character named Nellie Claus; his younger brothers are named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and his maternal grandmother is Mother Goose. Young Santa Claus, already an adept toymaker, is inspired to give toys away after a heroic episode saving the children of Cole’s kingdom from the Pied Piper, breaking the Piper’s spell by promising them toys. Later, it is King Cole who, on the request of Mother Goose, allows Santa to continue to give toys away indefinitely rather than sell them for a living by granting him a free toy business with free lodging on the condition that he move to the North Country. Santa marries a local woman named Bessie and they leave for the North Country on their wedding day, taken in a sleigh pulled by reindeer to a gorgeous house (“a great, wide, low building, furnished in log furniture and bearskins, and with a fire blazing in every room!”), all of which originally belonged to King Cole, and the two make toys for the children of the world forever thereafter. (No mention is made of elves.)

LifeAndAdventuresOfSantaClaus

Ded Moroz is the Slavic counterpart to Santa Claus, but in the most famous tale told of him, he acts more like Jack Frost or the Frost King, and public‐domain stories in English often even translate his name as King Frost. He is, nevertheless, portrayed as distinguishing a nice child from a naughty one, giving gifts (to the nice one), and driving a sleigh pulled by a team of six white horses. In the tale, he springs from one tree to another and has the power to make a young woman who was abandoned by her family in the cold forest become colder and colder. However, he takes pity on her when she does not complain and gives her jewels and a silver and gold‐embroidered robe (or a fur coat with beaver trim in another version). When her family then leave her stepsister in the same spot expecting similar gifts, Ded Moroz literally freezes the rude stepsister to death.

Public Domain Literary Appearances

  • “Sir Christmas,” carol attributed to Richard Smart (ca. 1461–77)
  • Letter by Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of York (13 Nov. 1572)
  • Summer’s Last Will and Testament, by Thomas Nashe (1592)
  • Chriſtmas, His Maſque, by Ben Jonson (1616)
  • The Spring’s Glory (masque), by Thomas Nabbes (1638)
  • The Examination and Tryall of Old Father Chriſtmas, by Josiah King (1658)
  • San Nicola di Bari (oratorio), by Silvio Stampiglia, music by Giovanni Bononcini (1693)
  • The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, by Alban Butler (1759)
  • A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (pseudonym of Washington Irving) (1809). Much of what makes Santa Claus distinct from Father Christmas and Sinterklaas originated in this book.
  • “Saint Nicholas, good holy man!” (traditional song) (1810)
  • “Oh good holy man! whom we Sancte Claus name” (poem), The New York Spectator (15 Dec. 1810)
  • A New‐Year’s Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve (1821)
  • Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” (poem), by Clement Clarke Moore, The Troy Sentinel (23 Dec. 1823)
  • “Knickerbocker Hall, or The Origin of the Baker’s Dozen,” by James Kirke Paulding, The New‐York Mirror (1 Jan. 1831)
  • “A Legend of St. Nicholas,” by James Kirke Paulding, The New‐York Mirror (14 May 1831)
  • “The Revenge of St. Nicholas,” by James Kirke Paulding, The New‐York Mirror (31 Dec. 1831)
  • “Claas Schlaschenschlinger,” by James Kirke Paulding, The New‐York Mirror (2 Feb. 1833)
  • “The Ride of Saint Nicholas on Newyear’s Eve,” by James Kirke Paulding (1836)
  • “A Christmas Legend,” by James Rees (1848)
  • “The Wonders of Santa Claus,” by Ralph Hoyt, Harper’s Weekly (26 Dec. 1857)
  • King Winter, by Gustav W. Seitz (ca. 1859). King Winter is a blend of Old Man Winter and Father Christmas.
  • Santa Claus May Be Recognized” (later “Up on the House Top”) (song), by Benjamin Hanby (1864)
  • Lilly’s Secret” (poem), by Emily Huntington Miller, The Little Corporal (Dec. 1865)
    • Retitled “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” music by James Pierpont (1874)
  • General Lee and Santa Claus, by Louise Clack (1866)
  • Santa Claus Frolics (play), by George Melville Baker (1866)
  • The Slav’s Poetical Views of Nature, by Alexander Afanasyev (1867)
  • “Mrs. Santa Claus and Jessie Brown,” Harper’s Weekly (9 Jan. 1869)
  • “A Letter from Santa Claus,” by Mrs. T. Bailey, The Nursery (1869)
  • Santa Claus and His Works, by George P. Webster (1869)
  • A Letter From Santa Claus (letter, 1870s) by Mark Twain
  • A Handbook of Legendary and Mythological Art, by Clara Erskine Clement (1871)
  • Hidden Treasure; or, The Good St. Nicholas, by Nathan Boughton Warren (1872)
  • “My Godmother’s Picture Book,” by Juliana Horatia Ewing, serialized in Little Folks (1872)
    • Reprinted as “Old Father Christmas” (1874)
  • Introduction by Mary Mapes Dodge, St. Nicholas (Nov. 1873)
  • “The Frost Fairies,” by Margaret T. Canby (1873). Santa Claus does not appear in the story but is said to be the neighbor of Jack Frost (who lives “far to the North”) and is the intended recipient of a large gift of Jack’s gold and gems, although it never reaches him.
  • The Snow Maiden (play), by Alexander Ostrovsky (1873)
  • “Christmas Mummers in Dorsetshire,” by John Udal, Notes and Queries (26 Dec. 1874)
    • The Folk‐lore Record (1880). Greatly expanded to include entire transcripts of mummers plays.
  • “Old York,” by Rev. J. Morris, The Month (Dec. 1875)
  • “Lill’s Travels in Santa Claus Land,” by Ellis Towne, Sophie May Farman and Ella Farman (1877)
  • The Daughter of the Snows (ballet), by Marius Petipa, music by Ludwig Minkus (1879)
  • “The Marriage of Santa Claus” (poem) (1881)
  • “A Song of Saint Nicholas,” by Mary Mapes Dodge (1882). Makes no mention of reindeer, but instead claims that Saint Nicholas is able to visit every child’s home because he travels via their dreams.
  • The Snow Maiden (opera), by Nikolai Rimsky‐Korsakov (1882)
  • “The False Sir Santa Claus” (play), by E. S. Brooks, St. Nicholas (Nov. 1882)
  • “Boreas Bluster’s Christmas Present,” by Helen Ashe Hays, Harper’s Young People (11 Dec. 1883)
  • “Lucy Lee from High Dundee,” by A. Brennan, “Fun‐Beams,” by Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, and “Santa Claus and the Mouse,” by Emilie Poulsson, St. Nicholas (Jan. 1884)
  • “The Peace Egg,” by Juliana Horatia Ewing, Aunt Judy’s Magazine (1884). (Not to be confused with Ewing’s 1872 story of the same title.)
  • “Sancte Claus, Bishop” and “St. Nikolaas” (poems), New Amsterdam Gazette (27 Feb. 1885)
  • “Death of Santa Claus” (poem), by Alice M. Ball (1885)
  • “A Christmas Dream, and How It Came True,” by Louisa May Alcott (1886)
  • “How the Good Gifts Were Used by Two,” by Howard Pyle, Harper’s Young People (27 Apr. 1886)
  • “Says Santa” (rhyme), by P. S. C., Wide Awake (Dec. 1888)
  • “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh‐Ride” (poem), by Katharine Lee Bates, Wide Awake (Dec. 1888)
  • “A Captured Santa Claus,” by Thomas Nelson Page, Harper’s Young People (4 Dec. 1888)
  • The Autobiography of a Father Christmas, by P. B. Power (1890)
  • “Christmas Hymns,” Dutch Nursery Rhymes of Colonial Times (1890)
  • “Santa Claus on a Lark” and “Santa Claus in the Pulpit,” by Washington Gladden (1890)
  • “Jack Frost,” trans. Edith Hodgetts (1891)
  • “The Frost King,” by Helen Keller, The Mentor (Jan. 1892). Santa Claus does not appear in this retelling of “The Frost Fairies” (above), but is likewise said to be the neighbor of King Jack Frost (who lives “far to the North”) and is the intended recipient of a large gift of Jack’s treasure, although it never reaches him.
  • Santa Claus’ Daughter (play), by Everett Elliott and F. W. Hardcastle (1892). Santa Claus’ teen daughter Kitty, feeling isolated living at the North Pole, requests that her father bring back a man for her, so on his annual flight, he kidnaps a crass Irishman in the hopes that, after meeting him, his daughter will no longer want any man from the world of mortals.
  • “Birth and Adventures of Santa Claus,” by William Cotter Wilson (1893)
  • Mr. Kris Kringle, by Silas Weir Mitchell (1893)
  • “The Story of King Frost,” The Yellow Fairy Book (1894)
  • “The Conquest of Santa Claus” (play), by Caroline A. Creevey and Margaret E. Sangster, Harper’s Young People (27 Nov. 1894)
  • A Christmas Tale, by Maurice Bouchor (1895)
  • Neighbors of Ours, by Henry W. Nevinson (1895)
  • “Santa Claus’ Assistants,” by Ernest Vincent Wright (1896)
  • Christmas Entertainment, ed. Alice M. Kellogg (1897)
  • Is There a Santa Claus?” (essay), by Francis Pharcellus Church, The Sun (21 Sept. 1897)
  • “How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats,” by Elia W. Peattie (1898)
  • A Vision of St. Nicholas, by Holdridge Ozro Collins (1898)
  • The Mother of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus), by Grant Balfour (pseudonym of James Miller Grant) (1899)
  • Santa Claus’s Partner, by Thomas Nelson Page (1899)
  • “A Messenger from Santa Claus,” by Harvey Scribner (1900)
  • Santa Claus (monologue), by J. L. McClelland (1901)
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (novel, 1902) by L. Frank Baum
  • The Surprising Adventures of the Man in the Moon, by Ray M. Steward (pseudonym of Edward Stratemeyer) (1903)
  • A Kidnapped Santa Claus” (story, 1904), by L. Frank Baum
  • “A Defective Santa Claus” (poem), by James Whitcomb Riley, Collier’s Weekly (3 Dec. 1904)
  • Is There a Santa Claus?, by Jacob Riis (1904)
  • “A Visit to Santa Claus,”, by Harvey Scribner (1904)
  • “A Message to Mother Goose,” by Ellen Manly, St. Nicholas (Dec. 1904)
  • “Santa Is Coming” (song), by W. A. Hodgdon (1906)
  • “A Ballad of Santa Claus” (poem), by Henry van Dyke (1907)
  • Jack Frost’s Mistake (operetta), by Clara J. Denton (1907)
  • “A Perjured Santa Claus,” by Myra Kelly (1907)
  • Stories of the Saints, by Caroline van Dusen Chenoweth (1907)
  • The Goblins’ Christmas, by Elizabeth Anderson (1908)
  • Tommy Trot’s Visit to Santa Claus, by Thomas Nelson Page (1908)
  • “The Philanthropist’s Christmas,” by James Weber Linn, The Youth’s Companion (1908)
  • “The Closing of Santa Claus’ Door,” by Anne Warner (1909)
  • “Father Christmas at Home,” by Mrs. M. H. Spielmann (1909)
  • The Road to Oz (novel, 1909), by L. Frank Baum
  • “The Story of King Frost,” Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories (1909)
  • “A Child’s Christmas Prayer” (poem), by James W. Foley (1910)
  • “Santa Claus” (song), by Mrs. Charles H. Toby (1911)
  • “Santa Claus’s Baby” and “Little Miss Santa Claus,” by John Coleman Adams (1911)
  • “The Christmas Conspiracy” (play), by Elizabeth Woodbridge, St. Nicholas (Dec. 1911)
  • “The Legend of St. Nicholas” (song), by R. L. Gales (1912)
  • “Little Girl’s Christmas,” by Winnifred E. Lincoln, and “Jimmy Scarecrow’s Christmas,” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, The Children’s Book of Christmas Stories (1913)
  • Holland Stories, by Mary Estella Smith (1913)
  • “The Fairing of St. Nicholas” (poem), by R. L. Gales, The Vineyard (Dec. 1913)
    • Reprinted as “The Ballad of St. Nicholas” (1914)
  • If Only I Were Santa Claus, by Edgar Guest (1914)
  • “King Frost,” by Valery Carrick (1914)
  • Mrs. Santa Claus, Militant (play), by Bell Elliott Palmer (1914). Mrs. Santa Claus waits for Mr. Santa Claus (whom she calls “Jolly”) to take a nap and then steals his sleigh and attempts to deliver the Christmas presents herself.
  • The Rejuvenation of Father Christmas, by J. Edgar Park (1914)
  • “A Legend of Saint Nicholas” (play), by Beulah Marie Dix, Poet Lore (Sept.–Oct. 1914)
  • “Christmas Masque,” Christmasse in Merrie England with Old Carols, Dances and a Masque (1915)
  • The Dilemma of Santa Claus, by Lloyd C. Douglas (1915?)
  • “Santa Land” (song), by Harriet D. Castle, music by J. A. Parks (1915)
  • “A Story of Saint Nicholas” and “Elijah the Prophet and St. Nicholas,” by Alexander Afanasyev (1915)
  • “The Spirit of Christmas,” by Edith Houghton Hooker, and “Mr. S. Claus’s Predicament,” by J. D. Whitney, St. Nicholas (Dec. 1915)
  • Christmas Island (poem, 1916) by Katharine Lee Bates
  • Santa Claus' Riddle (poem, 1916) by Katharine Lee Bates
  • Santa's Stocking (poem, 1916) by Katharine Lee Bates
  • “A Happy Solution,” by Margaret Johnson, St. Nicholas (Jan. 1916)
  • “Where Santa Claus Came From,” by Rose Ranson, The College Greetings (Jan. 1916)
  • “Anita’s Secret or Christmas in the Steerage,” by Walter Ben Hare (1917)
  • A Reversible Santa Claus, by Meredith Nicholson (1917)
  • St. Nicholas, by George H. McKnight (1917)
  • A Department Store Santa Claus (play), by Ernest Godfrey Hoffsten (1918)
  • The Luck of Santa Claus (play), by B. C. Porter (1918)
  • Santa's Helpers (poem, 1918) by M. Nora Boylan
  • When Santa Claus Went to the Front, by Ethel E. Reed and Martha G. Kendall (1918)
  • Telephoning to Santa Claus, by John D. MacDonald (1919)
  • A Christmas Dilemma, by Katharine Van Etten Lyford (1920)
  • “Raggedy Andy’s Smile” and “The Wooden Horse,” Raggedy Andy Stories, by Johnny Gruelle (1920)
  • The Christmas Chain (play), by Lilian Pearson (1921)
  • The Christmas Dinner (play, 1921) by Shepherd Knapp
  • Down the Chimney (play, 1921) by Shepherd Knapp
  • Santa Claus Gets His Wish (play), by Blanche Proctor Fisher (1921)
  • Up the Chimney (play, 1921) by Shepherd Knapp
  • “There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane,” by Sarah Addington, The Ladies’ Home Journal (Dec. 1921)
  • Queen Christmas (play), by Carolyn Wells (1922)
  • “Saint Nicholas and the Children,” by Cyrus Macmillan (1922)
  • “The Great Adventure of Mrs. Santa Claus,” by Sarah Addington, The Ladies’ Home Journal (Dec. 1922)
  • Gay Legends of the Saints, by Frances Margaret Fox (1942)
  • The Christmas Forest, by Louise Fatio (1950)
  • Festivals of Western Europe, by Dorothy Gladys Spicer (1958). Multiple entries on traditions involving Sinterklaas and Père Noël.

Public Domain Film Appearances

  • Santa Claus Filling Stockings (1897)
  • Santa Claus and the Children (1898)
  • The Visit from Santa Claus (1899)
  • Santa Claus' Visit (1900)
  • The Night Before Christmas (1905)
  • A Little Girl Who Did Not Believe in Santa Claus (1907)
  • Night Before Christmas (1908)
  • A Trap for Santa Claus (1909)
  • Ida's Christmas (1912)
  • A Christmas Revenge (1915)
  • The Faith of Sonny Jim (1915)
  • The Tichborne Mummers' Play (1919)
  • The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives (1933)
  • Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1944)
  • Santa's Surprise (1947)
  • Santa Claus' Punch and Judy (1948)
  • Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1948)
  • Joe Santa Claus (tv, 1951)
  • The Miracle on 34th Street (tv, 1955)
  • Santa Claus [vs. The Devil] (1959)
  • The Christmas Visitor (1959)
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
  • Santa and the Three Bears (1970)

Public Domain Comic Appearances

Notes

  • In Russia, he is known as "Ded Moroz", the literal translation of the name would be "Old Man Frost," although the name is often translated as "Father Frost" in light of the modern usage of "ded" to refer to a grandfather. Ded Moroz is said to bring presents to children, however, unlike the secretive Santa Claus, the gifts are often delivered "in person," at New Year's Eve parties and other New Year celebrations.
    • In a Russian story, the Snow Maiden is the daughter of Spring the Beauty and Father Frost, and yearns for the companionship of mortal humans. She grows to like a shepherd named Lel, but her heart is unable to know love. Her mother takes pity and gives her this ability, but as soon as she falls in love, her heart warms and she melts. This version of the story was made into a play The Snow Maiden by Aleksandr Ostrovsky, with incidental music by Tchaikovsky in 1873.
SurprisingAdventuresManMoon28

See Also