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5 Things You Might Not Know About Santa Claus

12/19/2014 09:43 EST | Updated 02/18/2015 05:59 EST
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Up on the rooftop, reindeer pause. Out jumps...well, you know who. Whenever Christmas gets close, children of all ages eagerly await the return of Santa Claus. Known by many names all over the world, Father Christmas is one of the most lasting figures in history. He's everything from a mythical father figure to a kick-ass salesman of soft drinks. Here are a few random facts about the jolly old one.

5. Santa Is Many Legends Rolled Into One. Santa Claus as we know him now is a combination of many historical and mythical persons. For instance, the Pagan God Woden was said to fly in a chariot, looking over villagers to see if they were bad or good. The historical Saint Nicholas was very real and bishop in 4th century Turkey. The patron saint of children, the day of his death (December 6) was celebrated for centuries and gifts were exchanged as part of this tradition. In the 16th century, Protestant reformers discouraged the celebrating of Saint Nicholas and instead introduced the tradition of gifts being delivered by The Christ Child himself. The "Christkindl," as he was known, delivered gifts on December 25: Christ's Mass. Converted Dutch sailors, however, were not quick to give up their Saint Nicholas tradition. They brought the legend with them to the New World. Sinterklaas eventually became "Santa Claus," and "Christkindl" became "Kris Kringle."

4. Thomas Nast Deserves a Ton of Credit. From 1860 to 1890, Thomas Nast was an editorial cartoonist for the magazine Harper's Weekly. Though many artists before him had illustrated Santa Claus (most notably Henry Underdunk, who is considered the first artist to popularize the character), Nast's rendition of St. Nick became the definitive version on which all others were based thereafter. Before then, many depicted Santa as tall and thin or tiny and elfin. Nast brought a truly human appearance to Claus, complete with his jolly face, rosy cheeks, and round belly. Nast also was the first person to put Santa's home at the North Pole, a toy workshop, and the infamous "Nice or Naughty" list.

3. The First Department Store Santa Was in 1890. James Edgar was a popular department store owner in Brockton, Massachusetts. He was known to try all sorts of gimmicks and tricks in order to entertain customers and attract them to his store. He was also known for holding parades and events for local children and often dressed up in silly costumes for both them and his would-be patrons. Edgar was known to disguise himself as George Washington in July and sometimes dressed as an Indian. In 1890, Edgar began dressing as Santa Claus in his store and greeting the children of Brockton. His name is now legend in that city and the site of his store is a local landmark.

2. The First "Santa Claus" Movie was released in 1903. The rare silent film called A Fantasy Actually Filmed in Northern Alaska was produced by Mr. and Mrs. FE Kleinschmidt right at the beginning of the 20th century. The film depicted Santa Claus looking exactly as we now know him and even in a sleigh being led by reindeer. During the short film, Claus is seen checking in on people all over the world (actually in one city) as they are being either naughty or nice. He peers at them from his northern home (Alaska?!) via a long telescope, while making notes on his infamous "list."

1. NORAD Tracks Santa...Because of a Mistake. In 1955, as part of a marketing campaign, a Sears store in Colorado posted a phone number in an advertisement flier given out to customers. As it turns out, the number was a typo. It was, in fact, the phone number to The North America Air Defense Command (NORAD). The fine military folks at NORAD were then overrun with phone calls from Colorado children wondering where Santa was and when he was coming to their homes. In response, NORAD set up it's own "Santa Tracking" system. Every year, you can check on Santa's whereabouts by logging in at noradsanta.org.

Now that you've learned five random things about Santa Claus, you have something to feel "nice" about this holiday season. What's your favourite Santa story?

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