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  • Foto do escritorWalmir Bastos

Who was the creator of Santa Claus?

As a teacher, many times along my career I had to explain to astonished students why North Americans call, Santa Claus, the legendary figure who is said to bring presents to well-behaved children on Christmas Night. The name, doesn't seem to make any sense to Brazilians because it sounds so different from the "Papai Noel", we got used to hear throughout our childhood.

St. Nicholas

Well, the term Santa Claus is the result of the corruption of Saint Nicholas's name. Along history, he has also been called Father Christmas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle or, like North Americans enjoy referring to him, simply Santa.

Saint Nicholas was a fourth-century Greek bishop who, as the legend goes, used to enjoy gift-giving. Being the patron saint of many and among them sailors and merchants, his story was taken around the world and, considering that most of those people were illiterate and had to use the word-of-mouth method to do so, it is no wonder the name has undergone some distortions along the centuries.

One of Saint Nicholas's most famous deeds according to the tradition, was to have rescued three girls from becoming prostitutes, by throwing a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights in a row, in order to enable their father to pay their respective dowries, and thus, having made it possible for the young maidens to get married.

But how has Saint Nicholas turned into the figure of the Santa Claus we know?

Along the years Santa, was depicted in different ways. Dressed as a bishop, in fur, or even as an elf-like creature as he was portrayed by Thomas Nast in the Harper's Weekly * in 1862. However, in 1931, Coca-Cola started placing adds in many magazines and decided to commission an illustrator called Haddon Sundblom to develop a brand-new figure of the, as Brazilians like to call him, "Good little old man".


To do so, Sundblon got inspiration in the Clement

Clark Moore's 1822 poem called "Twas the night

before Christmas" which brings a description of

our benefactor, reference which has been in use

ever since.

In his poem, Clement described Santa as "chubby and plump". Click here to read and listen to the poem.

To give Santa a more human-like look,

Sundblon used his neighbor, a retired salesman named Lou Prentiss, as a live model. But after Lou died he had to start using himself as a model by looking into a mirror while he painted and that is why in one of the paintings Santa's belt is painted backwards.

Although many people believe that Santa Claus's outfit is red because it is the Color of Coca-Cola, it is just a nice coincidence. In fact, it was Thomas Nast who changed his coat color from tan to red at any point along the following 30 years after he first painted him 1862. Thus, seventy years before Sundblon's creation.

Sundblon's oil paintings have won many prizes and been on exhibit in many famous places around the world including the Louvre Museum. Today some of the originals can be seen in the Coca-Cola's museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

* Harper's Weekly - Semanário político da Cidade de Nova Iorque.


Leia também:

Natal - Expressões e Termos em INGLÊS que irão enriquecer seu vocabulário

Natal - Aprendendo Termos e Expressões em INGLÊS com música


bishop - bispo

sailor - marinheiro

word-of-mouth - boca a boca

dory - dote

Twas - O modo informal pelo qual os americanos pronunciam "It was"

benefactor - benfeitor

chubby - gordinho

plump - rechonchudo

tan - pardo




Prof. Walmir Bastos

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