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Mythology and Folklore

Santa Claus

Saint Nick, Saint Nicholas, red suit, white beard, celebration of Christmas

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>  Origins of the Legend

>  American Origins

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Santa Claus, legendary bringer of gifts at Christmas. He is generally depicted as a fat, jolly man with a white beard, dressed in a red suit trimmed with white, and driving a sleigh full of toys drawn through the air by eight reindeer. Santa (also called Saint Nicholas and Saint Nick) is said to visit on Christmas Eve, entering houses through the chimney to leave presents under the Christmas tree and in the stockings of all good children. Although this familiar image of Santa Claus is a North American invention of the 19th century, it has ancient European roots and continues to influence the celebration of Christmas throughout the world.


Brunvald, Jan Harold, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Professor of English, University of Utah. Author of "The Study of American Folklore" and other books. Author of syndicated newspaper column "Urban Legends".

Article key phrases:

Saint Nick, Saint Nicholas, red suit, white beard, celebration of Christmas, good children, sleigh, reindeer, Christmas Eve, Christmas tree, chimney, toys, stockings, fat, world, air, century, houses

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