Santa Claus. The mere mention of the jolly man brings up images of happy childhoods spent waiting and wishing for the red-suit-clad gift-bringer to leave presents under the Christmas tree for good little boys and girls. We’ve dug up plenty of facts to show that the version of Santa Claus we’re familiar with today didn’t just come out of thin air (as he appears to do on Christmas Eve) but rather is the product of multiple redesigns over almost 1,700 years. Did you know St. Nick is based on an actual saint? (And that the saint lived in a rather hot climate? No penguins and North Pole there.) Did you know that some countries have tried to ban Santa Claus, only to have him never leave the hearts and minds of their people? (That’s Santa’s magic.) This list of unique and largely unknown Santa facts pulls from all aspects of Santa’s existence, especially how he became what we think of him today (portly, driving a sleight with eight reindeer plus Rudolph, eating cookies while his reindeer eat carrots) and dives into the saint from which his story is based. Put some holiday cheer in your step and impress your family this season with these 25 Curious Facts About Santa Claus You Might Not Be Aware Of.
St. Nicholas isn't from the North Pole
Rather, he’s from somewhere much warmer: Greece. St. Nicholas was a Greek bishop living in the third and fourth centuries. Anthropologists recreated his face based on his skull and bones and found that St. Nick’s nose was broken. (This may have led to images of St. Nick with a large, bulbous nose.) Researchers believe the broken nose may have come from the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians.
St. Nick as defender of the faith
Despite the Roman Empire’s persecution of Christians, the Greek Nicholas (bishop of Myra, Turkey) persisted in spreading the gospel with a fiery defiance. Later Emperor Constantine supported the spread of Christianity throughout his empire, thus bringing St. Nick out of prison and into infamy.
Santa as a miracle worker
Every year, many Christians celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, Nicholas’ death. He was known to perform miracles in his day which led to a strong following then, (especially) in the Middle Ages, and now.
The origin of Santa as a gift bringer
St. Nicholas was known as a magical gift-bringer and also became a patron saint of children. In one of his best-known stories, Nicholas saw three young sisters prostituting themselves to survive. He secretly brought three bags of gold to their (heavily indebted) father to use as a dowry for their marriages. (The story goes that he put the bags in their stockings.)
St. Nicholas as a righteous man
Frequently told during the Middle Ages though little-known today, St. Nicholas is also said to have visited an inn where the innkeeper had recently murdered three boys, stuffing their body parts in barrels to pickle. It’s said Nicholas knew the crime had been committed the moment he stepped through the door and he brought the three boys back to life.