The history of Santa Claus
The fictitious character and legend of Santa Claus all started with a real man named St.Nicholas.
St.Nicholas was a Christian in modern day Turkey in the 3rd century who took Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” very seriously. After using his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering and dedicating his life to serving God, he was made a Bishop. Nicholas became known as a patron saint of children and he became the subject of many legends.
His popularity spread throughout Europe (especially in Holland). His legend didn’t catch on in North America until the 18th century when Dutch families living in NA were seen commemorating St.Nicholas’ death (on Dec 6th). The name Santa Claus then evolved from St.Nicholas’ Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas.
The legend and make-believe character of Santa Claus became a marketing dream for selling gifts at Christmas time in stores in North America
New York used the legend of Santa Claus (Sinter Klaas) giving presents to children as an advertising ploy to pull on adults’ heartstrings to buy their children more presents during the Christmas season. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers had holiday ad sections that featured the newly-popular Santa Claus.
How did Santa go from looking like a real man named St.Nicholas to becoming a fictitious plump man in a red suit?
St.Nicholas was first depicted as donning a bishop's robe and a huntsman's animal skin. Civil War cartoonist named Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus as a small elflike figure who supported the Union. He was responsible for changing the color of St.Nick’s coat from tan to the red colour we are familiar with.
In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department-store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. Then Coca-Cola commissioned an illustrator to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa. The illustrator was inspired by the poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and used that description of St. Nick (as an image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa).
Santa Claus’ character traits are eerily close to Jesus:
Satan has used humans in media, marketing and advertising positions to have Santa mimick some of the characteristics of Jesus.
Santa and God are both not visible to the naked eye.
omniscient - (knowing everything - the 1934 Christmas encourages kids to believe that Santa knows when kids are ‘naughty or nice’ when they are sleeping or awake)
Omnipotent - all powerful - flying around the world on a sleigh being pulled by reindeers)
supernatural powers to perform miracles and signs and wonders
neither are confined by the law of physics or time
they both put emphasis on morality (being good and pure)
Both lovers of children (“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” in Matthew 18:3)
Both are like a good Father that gives us good gifts and blesses us when we are in His “good books” (the book of life vs. Santa’s good list)
It’s interesting to note that the name Santa contains the exact same letters as Satan in a scrambled form
It appears that the god of this world (Satan) has taken an interest in advertising a false god Santa for all the children to believe in and to set them up to not believe in Jesus.
What are the consequences of parents (especially Christian parents) telling their kids that Santa is real?
It takes away the credit from God. God is our provider. We are stewards of His gifts and provision. We work hard at our jobs but God gives us those job opportunities and provision to buy our gifts for kids. When we give gifts under the guise of Santa giving them we discredit God’s provision. Small children have a difficult time distinguishing between Santa and God. Often when they started talking about one, they end up talking about the other. This is not a coincidence that Satan would enjoy this mixup.
When kids grow up and find out that Santa was make-beleive, they will start to naturally question if God was real if their parents told them he was. Satan is the father of lies. If we lie to our children and tell them that Santa is real and they find out that we lied about him, what will make them trust us about the other invisible, omniscient, good Father? Santa is a lie. God is truth. Mixing these up causes kids great confusion later on.
Children and all human beings have an inbuilt desire to worship and desire the supernatural. Many turn to idolatry (witchcraft, the occult, or worshipping other things or people other than God). Children fill their desire for this loving, caring, all-powerful figure (God) with Santa.
Santa and Jesus play similar roles - giving gifts. Jesus’ gifts are spiritual, eternal ones. Santa’s are physical and temporal. Jesus came at Christmas to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and gave the greatest gift to humanity of all by giving his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), destroying the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and conquering Satan and death (Hebrews 2:14). The birth of Jesus was a reason for celebrating. Santa on the other hand is credited as giving indulgent, material gifts to children and adults that they forget about in no time.
Media, marketing and advertising agencies have also perverted the true Nativity scene and through composing and spreading famous Christmas songs that give a false impression of the birth of Christ.
In what other ways has the historical birth of Christ been perverted and distorted?
It’s customary to think of Jesus’ birth as peaceful and tranquil.
But the Gospel of Luke and Matthew record quite another situation.
Angels appearing and frightening Mary and Joseph
Shepherds rejoicing in the fields when they saw the angels singing in the sky
a celestial star that was so unusual and so bright that it lit up the sky and lead 3 wise men coming from the East to the baby Jesus in the manger
a jealous King (named King Herod) that wanted to use the wise men as spies so that he could locate and then have baby Jesus murdered
Christ was born in a dirty, stinky animal barn and placed in a hard-surfaced feeding trough. Interesting Side Note: Jesus said “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). SO, it’s interesting he was born and placed in a feeding trough where animals ate and drank from.
Sadly, the day that most commemorate Christ’s birth is tainted by the fact that December 25th is actually a Pagan holiday that celebrates the birth of Tammuz (the Babylonian Sun God). Some have postulated that the early Roman Christians simply “Christianized” many of the Roman-pagan holidays and that one of their holidays named Saturnalia (observed in Winter Solstice) became Christmas.
Many Bible scholars have explained that Jesus was not even born in the month of December. They postulate that since shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks at the time of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:7-8), Jesus may have been born in summer or early fall.
Many Christians struggle with whether or not they should celebrate the birth of Christ at a time of year and with traditions (like the wreath and Christmas tree) that is convoluted with Pagan roots.
Regardless of whether Christians have been duped into celebrating Christ’s birth and change of cosmology when God came to earth in human form is that Christ’s birth is worthy to be celebrated and honoured. We must take time out from our hustle-bustle culture to pay homage and we can build our reverence and respect by taking the time to study just how many prophecies Christ’s birth fulfilled.
Prophecy may not be a major factor in how modern people imagine the Christmas story. But the details that Luke and Matthew record in the scriptures are vital to understanding the true Nativity scene and how Jesus’ birth changed the entire cosmology. Their accounts were filled with allusions to prophecies fulfilled by the birth of Jesus.
What are the Prophecies that Jesus’ birth fulfilled?
1. Prepare the way of the Lord: John the Baptist would be the forerunner, the messenger, the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus Christ.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, ….,to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)
Compare with Malachi 3:1
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.”
2. The Saviour would be born in Bethlehem of Judea:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times." (Micah 5:2).
"When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written:
"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'" (Matthew 2:4–6).
3. The Virgin Shall Conceive:
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
"The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Matthew appeals to Old Testament prophecies by citing this message from Isaiah to the Judean king Ahaz, 700 years earlier, which was fulfilled in the virgin birth of Christ.
Matthew parallels the name Jesus (“God is salvation”) with the title Immanuel (“God with us”) as they both describe Mary’s child, the incarnate Son of God who would save his people from their sins.
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14)
Mary “was found” (presumably by Joseph) to be pregnant, with the result that righteous and compassionate Joseph decided to cancel the legal marriage created by their betrothal. This is the natural human evaluation of the “origin” of Jesus Christ. Since his origin is not from Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, it must have been from a sinful union between Mary and another man.
4. The Scepter will come through Judah:
"The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his" (Genesis 49:10).
Judah is part of Jesus's genealogy.
"the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah" (Luke 3:33)
5. The Messiah would spend a portion of time in Egypt
"When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hosea 11:1).
Impotant to Note:
Hosea’s statement in context refers to God bringing Israel out of Egypt at the Exodus.
"So he [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son'" (Matthew 2:14–15).
Having been warned of Herod’s murderous plot, Joseph fled with his family to Egypt, thus fulfilling the words of the prophet Hosea.
Rather than Hosea’s words being a Messianic prophecy, it is a pictorial one. Matthew is using Hosea’s statement to show the parallels between Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of Israel in the physical Exodus, and the Spiritual Exodus where God called and redeemed His people via His true Son, Jesus Christ, who is the perfect Israelite who performed the true Exodus by fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. Jesus spiritually delivered humanity from their sin and guides them to a spiritual Promised Land (abiding eternally with God).
6. The Son of the Most High:
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33; compare 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 9:6-7).
Luke then records the angel Gabriel making a similar announcement to Mary regarding the miraculous birth of her own son, Jesus.
Once more, the angel references several prophecies that would’ve been familiar to Mary. These include God’s promise to King David via Nathan the prophet, that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne and rule an everlasting kingdom.
They also include Isaiah’s more explicit messianic prophecy, in which the prophet describes the future Davidic sovereign as “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
As this Christmas season draws to a close, I hope that each reader will reflect on the historical facts and issues I have addressed above. Perhaps you may even feel called to change the way that you celebrate Christmas next year. Please remember that Jesus is more than just the "reason for the Season". He is our coming Lord and Saviour who patiently awaits for you to give Him your whole heart and soul.