Did you know that Santa Claus has not always worn a red suit trimmed in white fur? In fact his name has not always been Santa! In some parts of the world he is known as the Weihnachtsman, Belsnickel, Sinterklaas, Piere Noel, Kris Kringle, or Saint Nicholas, the names being based on the early folk-lore of his origination.
Santa Claus, the jolly old man with a white beard, wearing his red suit trimmed in white fur, wearing black boots is the familiar depiction that Americans have known since the early 1890’s. Before that time, in the United States, Santa generally was depicted as wearing a robe, sometimes trimmed in fur, but the preferred colors being dark green, dark blue, mustard yellow, or purple. Sometimes he was featured wearing a white robe, but this was rare. He has also been seen wearing dark robes with geometric designs which give him a wizard-like appearance.
The modern day, American Santa Claus is strongly believed to have originated from Germany. His dark robe changed to the popular red suit sometime in the mid 1890s, and he eventually took on the jolly appearance that we are all familiar with now. Prior to 1890, the American version of Santa was still very characteristic of the old world depictions, his appearance being somewhat severe at times. His demeanor actually appeared as menacing, with scowling facial features, and he occasionally held a switch in his hand, or carried a bundle of switches. Such a depiction as this was similar to the folk-lore of the German Belsnickel who was historically known to be a sort of hobo character that menaced any children that had not behaved, yet gave candies, nuts, and fruit to those children that had been well behaved. Children that were not as deserving received lumps of coal, and pliable birch tree switches that their parents could use to correct their behavior.
Some sources have been convinced that Santa Claus originated from the Germanic god, Wodan, who was associated with the pagan midwinter event known as Yule. In early Europe Saint Nicholas bestowed gifts upon the poor. He is generally portrayed as a bearded bishop wearing a mitered dome and canonical robe, traditionally in the darker colors, mainly burgundy or purple.
As Santa Claus evolved in the United States he began appearing in red colored robes. Following the publishing of a poem, A Visit From Santa, and the later introduction of artist, Thomas Nast and Coca Cola advertising, Santa Claus began to eventually take on a jolly appearance, and was soon seen wearing his popular red suit trimmed in fur.
Though Santa’s appearance has changed throughout the years, one thing has remained, the intention of his joy of giving to others, which is certainly a testimony to the real reason for the season.