Once upon a time, there lived a man called Saint Nicholas, who was famous for gift-giving. He lived in the days of the Roman empire, in a place called Myra, in what is today Turkey. In fact, he was born in around the year 270 which means that he’s oh, let me see, about 1737 years old.
He was famous for being a very kind man, who was always helping other people. In one famous story, he dropped a bag of money down a chimney to help a young girl whose father was penniless. And this helps explain why children all over the world hang stockings on Christmas Eve by the fireplace, in case Father Christmas drops by and puts some toys and sweeties inside them.
Nicholas became a Bishop - which is a high up official in the church. He lived to a ripe old age and wore a red cloak as his uniform.
In the Netherlands and Germany, Saint Nicholas was known as Sinterklaas and became a symbol of Christmas which happens around the same time as his birthday in December.
Every country has slightly different beliefs about the man we know as Santa Klaus.
In Holland, Sinterklaas brings presents to every child that has been good in the past year. He wears a red bishop’s cloak - just like the original St. Nicholas - and he rides a white horse called Amerigo over the rooftops. He his helped not by reindeer, but lots of mischievous little followers dressed in dirty rags.
In Germany, children don’t usually hang up stockings to collect presents but put boots on the doorstep.
In Portugal St. Nicholas is the saint of High School Children, and his celebrations start at the end of November.,
And in some parts of Europe, Santa has a helper called Rupert who has a bunch of sticks and beats naughty children.
But in most countries, people, don’t believe that Santa would ever do anything nasty to children, naughty or otherwise.
It’s also widely believed that he lives in the North Pole. This might be because in Siberia in Russia - which is freezing all the year round - people used to believe in a mysterious holy man or Shaman who would come into people’s homes through the chimneys and bring red and white mushrooms as presents.
All these stories started to get mixed into one big story. In 1822 The American Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” which describes Father Christmas as “chubby and plump, a right jolly elf.” Pretty much like we know him now.
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