Santa Claus is one of the most beloved and recognizable figures in Christianity, with his iconic image having been ingrained in our collective consciousness. Though it may seem as if Santa has been around forever, the modern version of him we know today is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The traditional depiction of Santa Claus that we’re all familiar with today was first popularized by author Washington Irving and cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 19th century. Before then, Santa had already been a part of Christian tradition for centuries, although usually as an old man or bishop rather than a jolly old elf.
Santa’s transformation from a religious figure to the modern gift-giving figure we know today was largely due to the influence of Clement Clark Moore’s poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (also known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’), which was first published in 1823. The poem set out Santa’s now-iconic form – driving his reindeer through snow-covered skies, carrying his sack full of presents and sliding down chimneys – and helped to cement this image into popular culture and folklore.
The life and times of Santa Claus have recently been explored in great detail in the 2019 documentary ‘Santa: A Very British Story’. The documentary delves into the history of how Santa evolved into such an endearing figure. It tells how he has become entwined with British culture over time, from his Victorian origins to his current status as a global icon.
If you’re interested in learning more about how this timeless character has come to be so widely celebrated around the world, then be sure to watch ‘Santa: A Very British Story’. It is sure to provide fascinating insight into one of Christianity’s oldest legends and its evolution throughout history!