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December 6, 2005 > Santa Claus comes to town

Santa Claus comes to town

by Arathi Satish

As this year comes to an end, holiday season excitement builds. Christmas spirit and songs fill the air; it is time to meet Santa. This mythical character is famous all over the world by different names. He is Nicholas of Myra, Santa Claus in America, Shengdan Laoren in China, Father Christmas in England, Pere Noel in France, Christindl in Germany, Papa Noel in Brazil and Peru, Babbo Natale in Italy, Black Peter in Morocco, Santa no ojisan in Japan, Jultomten in Sweden, Julenissen in Norway, Joulupukki in Finland, Sinter Klaas in Dutch and Grandfather Frost in Russia. Regardless of the name by which he is known, he brings us all together. Children everywhere know and adore him.

The origin and evolution of Santa is as fascinating as the character. The American version of Santa, as a roly-poly-jolly red-suited figure, originated from the Dutch legend of Sinterklass, a Dutch variant of the name Saint Nicholas. This tradition passed to the American colonies in the 17th century. Around 1773, the American press referred to him as "St. A Claus." Washington Irving, in 1809 described the arrival of the saint on horseback on the eve of Saint Nicholas.

The American image was truly bestowed on Santa by Clement Moore's poem, "A visit from St. Nicholas," famously known as "The Night Before Christmas." Moore describes Santa as being dressed in fur with a bundle of toys flung on his back. He mentions his twinkling eyes, merry dimples, cherry like nose, droll mouth and a beard as white as snow. Santa's portrayal was completed with a little round body and broad face. Although doubts regarding the authorship of the poem remain, it has become a Christmas classic.

Thomas Nast's drawing during the 1860s through 1880s in Harper's Weekly established a round Santa with snowy beard, fur clothes and a clay pipe. And Santa's delivery of gifts from the North Pole became legendary.

Many writers have been instrumental in designing the personality of Santa. Today, he is a multicultural personality but has the universal appeal of gift-giving. This selfless act of giving without expecting anything in return makes Santa a beloved figure. Parents and children stand in line for hours just to meet him, talk to him and have their photo taken with him. Among his many appearances in parades, tree lightings, malls and stores, Santa has arrived from North Pole at NewPark Mall for his yearly visit. A cherry chap indeed. Whenever someone catches his eye, he waves and smiles at them and gives them a jolly "Ho, Ho, Ho." Children that visit him receive a small gift as a special reminder of their visit. Santa visits with children 10 hours a day, tirelessly enjoying every minute.

His magical presence fills the air and brings a smile to everyone's face as they see children running up to him crying out "Santa, Santa!" And if you look very closely, you might just see Rudolph and the rest of his reindeers sitting atop the roof!

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