Santa Claus: A Brief History
Santa’s popularity is legendary. Most historians like to credit his roots to Nicholas of Myra, a fourth century Roman Catholic bishop who’s still honored by many today. Others link him with the customs of Martin of Tours, also a Catholic bishop, who likewise is said to have been a friend to children and a bringer of gifts (traditionally fruits, nuts and candies).1 Others still, have shown that Santa Claus has roots in pagan myth, tying him to the ancient legends of a fertility god and the “Wild Man” or “wild man of the woods”.2 Although various cultures and traditions throughout the years have contributed to the folklore of Santa Claus, the truth is, because Santa is not a real person and has no real traceable roots, no single origin is responsible for the myth we know today. Santa is an amalgam birthed from various sources.3
But regardless of the myth’s origin, which obviously has connections scattered here and there, our primary concern for this writing is the Santa Claus with which we’re all familiar today. The Santa Claus as perceived in the minds of today’s children. The image formed via children’s books, children’s songs, children’s television and retail businesses. That big, red, laughing “bowl full of jelly” that’s become so prominent at Christmas time.
One of the earliest events which had the most profound impact on modern Santa lore, was Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas. A personal poem written for his children. It first appeared anonymously in the New York Sentinel in 1823. Since then, it’s been republished hundreds of times in books around the world, and retitled Twas the Night Before Christmas, or simply, The Night Before Christmas.
Robert L. May’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created in 1939 as a marketing ploy for Montgomery Ward department stores. Rudolph has added to the growth of the Santa mythos, and perhaps more importantly, like Rudolph, Santa Claus has become a huge marketing tool for modern retailers (see 1Tim. 6:10).
Many children’s songs have also helped memorialize Santa in the hearts of children. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Here Comes Santa Claus, Jolly Old St. Nicholas and Up on the Housetop are some of the more well known tunes.
With the explosion of the television in the 1950s, Santa Claus programs aimed at children soon followed. As a result, Santa’s popularity soared, and programs about him have been aired annually ever since. Some of the more famous are from Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc., an animation studio which specialized in seasonal programming (note that word “programming”). Today, the Santa image is inescapable. During the Christmas season he can be found nearly everywhere.
Lessons from the Great Deceiver
Before delving into the evidence of Santa’s guilt, we must first turn our attention to another more notorious lawbreaker. A lawbreaker who’s name is nearly identical with “Santa” – Satan.
The reason for this change in direction is that, unlike Santa, the Devil is real, and he’s been around from the very beginning of man’s fall (Gen. 3). For mankind, that beginning demonstrates that Satan is primarily concerned with one thing; DECEIVING MANKIND. The way he does this is by first counterfeiting, twisting, or outright denying God’s words (Gen. 3:1). He then appeals to man’s flesh by offering an outward appearance of “good” things or ideas.
Man has a tendency to judge things in accord with how they look on the outside. In other words, man constantly judges a book by its cover. If it looks good, then it is good. That’s the subconscious perception. This is why retail and industry spend billions of dollars annually on advertising. To make their products look good. If it looks good outwardly, you’re more likely to buy it, right? Don’t kid yourself. Satan exploits this weakness to his advantage. This method of deception cannot be overemphasized.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was GOOD for food, and that it was PLEASANT TO THE EYES, and a tree TO BE DESIRED to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Genesis 3:6
To be continued in THE TRIAL OF SANTA CLAUS: PART 3 …
 Miles, Clement A. Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1912. Pages 219, 277.
 Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997. Page 5.
 McKenney, Tom C. Holidays & Holy Days: The Origins and Meaning of Our Favorite Holidays. Nashville, Tennessee: Harris Press, 1990. Pages 23-24.
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