A legendary figure who supposedly brings presents to children on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus is an American adaptation of European traditions concerning Saint Nicholas. These were introduced into America by the Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam. The name Santa Claus is a contraction of the Dutch Sint Nikolaas (Sinter Klaas). In the USA, Saint Nicholas became associated with Christmas rather than December 6th, his traditional feast day, and he developed into a purely secular figure.

Most of the central features of the Santa Claus legend, such as his climb down the chimney and the switches he leaves for naughty children, are of Dutch origin. His red suit trimmed with white fur originated in the bishop’s miter and cope worn by the Dutch saint. His association with reindeer and the North Pole, however, apparently came from Scandinavia. These and other attributes of Santa Claus were popularized during the 19th century through the stories of Washington Irving, the cartoons of Thomas Nast, and the famous 1822 poem by Clement Moore, "A visit from Saint Nicholas".

Male and female European counterparts of Santa Claus include the English Father Christmas, the German Kris Kringle, the Italian Befana, and Russia’s grandmotherly Babouschka. Many of them have been influenced by the American conception of the figure.




1. In few words, define the origin of Santa Claus as we are used to seeing him nowadays.

2. What association is there between Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Befana, Babouschka and Father Christmas?

3. Identify the origins of Santa Claus’ clothes (the coat, the hat, the boots). Say why the reindeers and the snow sledge (or sled) are used by Santa Claus.