How he became a part of holiday traditions


Susannah Otstott, Staff Writer

Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas! It should come as no surprise if that phrase sounds familiar; 71% of Americans know about the magical Santa Claus. iUniversity Prep students Bruce, Beatrix, and Linden share Santa’s role in their holiday traditions.

“Santa Claus was a tradition that I believe started on my first Christmas,” Linden says. “I remember hearing about it was when I was five years old.” Bruce has a similar story, saying that “I’ve known about Santa my entire life. My family has always made him a big deal around Christmastime.” Beatrix remembers she “first heard about santa when I was about 2, and I knew he brought presents to children if we were good!”

Santa’s role in children’s families changes house to house, but many agree with Beatrix in the fact that he brings toys to children on the Nice List. editors write that “Santa Claus and his wife, Mrs. Claus, call the North Pole home, and children write letters to Santa and track Santa’s progress around the world on Christmas Eve. Children often leave cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for his reindeer on Christmas Eve. Santa Claus keeps a “naughty list” and a “nice list” to determine who deserves gifts on Christmas morning, and parents often invoke these lists as a way to ensure their children are on their best behavior.” 

Beatrix thinks that “the idea that you must be nice to get gifts is probably how it became popular.” In Bruce’s household, their family “had me, my brother, and my cousins, write letters to Santa and make cookies and milk for him. As well as making food for his reindeer. Over the years they’ve kept [the traditions] pretty much the same.” Linden’s family leaves sweets for St. Nick as well! “My family and I always leave out some sort of treat for Santa and his reindeer. They have always been this way, but as we got older, the more we started doing the treats.”

Santa is thought of as a major part of Christmas, but how exactly did it get to be that way? Bruce and Linden share their thoughts. “I think he started as a saint in turkey delivering gifts and later on became known as Santa Claus,” Linden says. “He became a large part of Christmas by tales of him.  I think after many generations, his story got passed down, and people started to make Santa a part of their Christmas (after being inspired by the stories about him.)  Santa Claus then became a widely spread tradition in many cities, countries, and continents.” Bruce adds on, saying that “Christmas in general is a big melting pot of a bunch of different pagan holidays, thrown in with some Christian values. Santa, and all his counterparts, was a big deal in European countries. Most notably, Odin, the head Norse god, had a habit of visiting people through chimneys, as well as flying around at night with a group of animals, in an event known as the Wild Hunt. As far as why he became such a big part of the holiday, that’s in large part due to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol popularizing Christmas in America and the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas popularizing Santa Claus as he was characterized in Europe.”

Whether it’s toys under the tree for nice girls and boys, stockings hung by the chimney with care, or cookies for Santa Claus himself, the jolly man in the red suit has become a large part of Christmas Traditions in many households.