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Is that you, Santa? Little-known facts about that beloved guy in the red suit

Written by Contributor. Posted in Featured

Published on November 27, 2019 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

His name is synonymous with Christmas; he’s even called Father Christmas. His lap has been home to more children, from packed malls to small parties. He’s revered as a symbol of all that is good with this season, while also reviled as a reflection of how commercial Christmas has become.

He is, of course, Santa Claus – that fellow in the red suit who somehow knows everything about us – from naughty to nice. Yet, how much do we really know about Santa? For those of you who still leave something for Santa to eat (and those who pay for those treats), here is some Santa Claus trivia.

• We tend to associate Santa Claus with the North Pole, but how about mosques and minarets? Did you know the original Santa hails from an Islamic country? Santa is derived from St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Greek Catholic bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Empire. Today that’s in Turkey, where the prominent religion is Islam.

• What do donkeys, elephants, and Santa have in common? The portly but kindly fatherly image we have of Santa developed due to the influence of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” an 1823 poem by Clement Charles Moore, and the artwork of political cartoonist Charles Nast, who is more famous for giving us donkeys for Democrats and elephants for Republicans.

• Ever wonder why Santa is overweight? Besides all those breakfasts with Santa, we like to leave him goodies, along with a carrot for his reindeer. Children in this country leave him a glass of milk and plate of cookies. Brits and Australians leave him sherry or beer and mince pies. Children in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden leave Santa rice porridge with cinnamon sugar. In Ireland, the tradition is to leave Santa some Guinness or milk, along with Christmas pudding or mince pies.

• How did Mrs. Claus enter the picture? She may have been the creation of U.S. authors, beginning in the mid-19th century. In 1889, poet Katharine Lee Bates popularized Mrs. Claus in the poem “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.”

• Santa Claus in Oz? It’s true. L. Frank Baum, whose imaginative pen gave us “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” also wrote “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” a children’s book, in 1902. Santa later appeared as an honored guest in Baum’s “The Road to Oz.”

• Never enough Santas? The largest gathering of Kris Kringle took place Dec. 27, 2014 in Thrissur, Kerrala, India, where 18,112 Santas showed up.

• Does Santa have one address? True to Santa’s association with the North Pole, here is one address: Santa Claus, Santa Claus Post Office, FI-96930, Arctic Circle. That address is located in Santa Claus Village in the Lapland region of Finland.

• How long have kids been mailing letters to Santa? According to the Universal Postal Union, the U.S. Postal Service boasts the oldest Santa letter-answering service, starting in 1912 out of the James Farley Post Office in New York.

• Santa letter writing is truly international. In 2006, Finland’s national postal service received letters from 150 countries; France, from 126 nations; and Germany, from 80 countries. In 2007, the Canadian postal system replied to letters to Santa in 26 languages. Since 1982, more than 13,000 Canadian postal workers have volunteered to write responses to Santa letters.

• Remember Virginia O’Hanlon? This 8-year-old wrote a letter to The New York Sun that spawned one of the most reprinted newspaper editorials in history. Virginia wanted to know if Santa Claus real existed. Francis Pharcellus Church, a former Civil War correspondent, replied on Sept. 21, 1897 with a few paragraphs that included the iconic “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Laura Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas, who became an educator, died on May 13, 1971 at age 81 in Valatine, New York.

Virginia may be gone, and yet, as Church wrote 119 years ago, Santa lives forever. “Ten times ten thousand years from now,” Church wrote, [Santa] will continue to make glad the hearts of children.”

Santa Claus in Oz? It’s true. L. Frank Baum, whose imaginative pen gave us “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” also wrote “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” a children’s book, in 1902. Santa later appeared as an honored guest in Baum’s “The Road to Oz.”

 

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