Who is Santa Claus?

The tale of Santa Claus crosses generations and even the equator.  Although story variations exist from country to country, the story is familiar to almost all who celebrate Christmas worldwide.  

It has become so mainstream that even those who do not celebrate Christmas know about Santa Claus.  Since coming to terms with finding out your parents bought your presents and ate your cookies, did you ever wonder where the tale came from?   
The story of Santa Claus actually evolves from a story of a recognized Saint, Saint Nicholas  (hence the stories about Old Saint Nick).  Like many Saints, he was a kind-hearted man who traveled from place to place caring for others.  

In the early eighteen hundreds Saint Nicholas, known as Sinter Klaas, was celebrated by Dutch families in New York.  The families were said to have gathered to give each other gifts on the day of his death.  Over the years the tradition of gift-giving evolved as did the image and name of Santa Claus. 
Santa Claus isn’t the only gift-giver throughout the world.  In some places, the Christ Kind is a tradition of exchanging gifts in honor of the Christ Child.  This tradition was started in order to stamp out the less religious commercialization surrounding Santa Claus.  

In some regions, a mountain man accompanies Santa Claus as the enforcer of naughty and nice children. In Germany, Santa Clauses’ muscle is a medieval demon like character known as Krampus.  Papa Noel in France travels by goat instead of reindeer and doles out candy to good kids, and floggings to naughty ones.  

In Italy, Befana, a witch-like character rides a broomstick instead of reindeer and she is said to whack spying boys and girls with her broomstick if she is seen.  She also slides down the chimney to bring gifts.
It seems like we American "children" get off easy with a lump of coals from Santa Claus if they are naughty. But isn't it such a wonderful time when we've all been nice!  


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