Santa Claus will soon be making his official annual appearance, making now a good time to brush up on some Santa trivia with seven wild facts about the jolly man in red this season. The changing image of Santa Claus over the centuries makes for some interesting tales.
1. Santa Claus was a real person…well, kind of. The Santa Claus we know today is loosely based on the real St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, who was born around the year 270 A.D. St. Nicholas developed a reputation for helping the poor, and particularly impoverished children. Legend has it that small children would leave their shoes out so that St. Nicholas would leave treats and coins in them. However, some sources say that St. Nicholas also had a reputation for being a bit rowdy and was even known for having struck another bishop at one time. Today St. Nicholas, the predecessor to our modern day Santa Claus, is recognized by the Catholic Church as the patron saint of children, thieves, students, butchery, sailors, merchants and pawnbrokers among others. The diversity of his patron sainthood appears to also reflect the diversity of his real life reputation. He is one of the most depicted of the recognized saints, second only to Mary.
2. Santa Claus was a bachelor until the late 19th century. The first mention of a spouse for Santa is believed to have been in a short story titled A Christmas Legend by James Rees in 1849. Perhaps if Santa Claus had remained a bachelor, there would be even more than seven wild facts to report about the jolly man in red.
3. Santa Claus calls all of his reindeer by male-sounding names, but in reality, they would have to be female since male reindeer generally shed their antlers prior to the Christmas season.
4. The tradition of the department store Santa Claus visits dates back to the year 1890. It is said that in that year, a man named James Edgar donned a Santa suit at his small store in Brockton, Massachusetts, in hopes of luring customers with children in to do their holiday shopping. Mr. Edgar is also said to have been motivated by his deep love for children and desire to bring the magic of Santa Claus closer to their homes than the North Pole.
5. Today there are approximately 20,000 “Rent-a-Santas” hired and trained during the holiday season. These seasonal Santas are trained on a variety of topics ranging from the maintaining of positive public relations in the face of large crowds and anxious visitors, to the avoidance of bad breath and gas.
6. Santa Claus must visit an estimated 842 million homes and travel 221 million miles to reach every child’s home on Christmas Eve. This feat requires him to travel at a speed of 650 miles per second.
7. Prior to a Coca-Cola ad campaign in the 1930’s, Santa Claus was most often depicted donned in green or purple attire. While there were a few instances showing him in red prior to the Coca-Cola ad campaign, it was that campaign that was primarily responsible for transforming Santa Claus into the jolly man in red that these seven wild facts salute this Christmas season.
By Michele Wessel