Folklore may have turned Santa Claus into a toy distributor who mans a sleigh led by eight flying reindeer, but he is actually based, loosely, on a real person. Born around the year 270, St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, a town in what is now Turkey. He earned a reputation as an anonymous gift giver, by paying the dowries of impoverished girls and handing out treats and coins to children — often leaving them in their shoes, set out at night for that very purpose. Since his death, Nicholas has been canonized as the patron saint of children.
In the early USA his name was ‘Kris Kringle’. Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas or “Sinterklaas” with them, a bishop who travelled from house to house to deliver treats to children on the night of Dec. 5. The first anglicizing of the name to Santa Claus was in a story that appeared in a New York City newspaper in 1773.
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