Looking out of the window into the dark sky, the only wish of an 8-year-old is to see the Santa coming on the sleigh to drop the gift he/she wished for long. We all grew up with the story of Santa Claus bringing gifts to the homes of the good children during Christmas.
The present day pot-bellied, white-bearded man in red clothes and a pack of toys, most commonly know as Santa Claus and also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and Kris Kringle, draws his inspiration from Saint Nicholas of Myra, a fourth century Greek bishop, whose generosity towards the poor made him a very popular figure among the local people and all over Europe.
Parallels are also drawn between Santa Claus and German God Odin, who had a eight legged horse `Sleipnir` and placed gifts in boots as a reward to kids for their kindness towards his horse.
‘The Night before Christmas’ written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822, included details like the name of the reindeer; Santa's laughs, winks, sleigh and the toys being dropped through the chimney.
Though the historical roots of Santa Claus date back to the 4th century, and is associated with different legends and mythical figures, the present day Santa, however, was given an elaborate illustration by Thomas Nast, an American cartoonist in 1860s. The first illustration of Santa by Nast appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1863. The concept of Santa living in the North poles is also considered to be Nast’s creation. A human-sized version of Santa was depicted in Coca Cola advertisement in 1930s by Haddon Sundblom.
Rudolph, the 9th red-nosed Reindeer was illustrated in a Gene Autry song, written by a Montgomery Ward copywriter. Katherine Lee Bates popularised Santa`s wife Mrs. Claus with her poem ‘Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride’, in 1889. The idea of elves preparing toys in Santa’s workshop came up only in the 20th century.
Over the centuries, Santa became popular for his generosity and philanthropy. Whatever his origin maybe, the white-bearded, pot-bellied, chubby, red suited man who gives out gifts on Christmas is one of the most loved characters, especially among children.