Santa Claus is possibly more popular among kids than the Lord on his own birthday. When and how did the American version of Santa Claus originate?
The American version of Santa Claus comes from the Dutch legend of Sinterklass. Sinterklass is the dutch version of St. Nicholas, who has the reputation of secretly giving gifts back in the 4th century AD.
The Dutch immigrants brought the concept of Sinterklass to New Amsterdam (modern day New York) in the 17th century. Sinterklass, in his modern version of Santa Claus, initially appeared in the press as “St. A Claus”. In 1809 Washington Irving, possibly one of most famous New Yorker ever, wrote a book titled the “History of New York” under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. You can read that book online: Knickerbocker’s History of New York, Complete by Washington Irving. In this book Washington Irving described Santa Claus and concocted the legend that he came on a horseback (and not on a sleigh!) each year on the eve of St. Nicholas.
In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore in a poem titled: “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, illustrated Washington Irving’s Santa Claus with additional details that included Santa’s reindeers and his winks and nods. This poem is popularly know as “The Night before Christmas”. Interestingly though Santa himself was an elf as far as this poem goes.
Between 1860 and 1880, Thomas Nast, expanded on these original ideas of Santa Claus and converted him into a fat round character with reindeers, who went every Christmas night giving gifts around the world. His illustration of Santa Claus was published in Harper’s Weekly. A human size and form of Santa Claus as we know of it today, was popularized by Coca Cola in an advertisement in 1931. This advertisement illustration was created by Haddon Sundblom.