"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Oh! You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!

He's making a list,
Checking it twice,
Gonna find out who's naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!

Oh! You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that
Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in
modern-day Turkey.
Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is
said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor
and sick.

In a well known story illustrating
St, Nicholas' benevolence, we find two of the basic principles
of the holiday spirit -
giving to others and helping the less fortunate.

According to this legend, there were three Italian maidens whose
families had fallen on hard
times
. Because their father could not afford the dowries necessary for them to marry, he was
considering selling one of his daughters into slavery to get dowries for the other two. When the
good saint heard of the family's plight, he
went to their home late one night and anonymously
tossed three bags of gold down the chimney. Miraculously, a bag fell into each of the sisters
stockings, which were
hanging by the fire to dry. His kindhearted gift made it possible for all
three sisters to marry.

Many years after his death, Nicholas was made a saint. In time, he became the
patron saint of
children
. The date of his death, December 6, was commemorated with an annual feast, which
gradually came to mark the beginning of the medieval Christmas season. On the night before,
children put out their shoes and hang up their stockings. Early next morning, they rush to see
what gifts Saint Nicholas left them.

After the Protestant Reformation, the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, but St.
Nicholas maintained a positive reputation. And, people had become accustomed to the annual
visit from their gift-giving saint and didn't want to forget the purpose of the holiday. So in some
countries, the festivities of St. Nicholas' Day were
merged with Christmas celebrations, and
although the gift-bearer took on new, non-religious forms, he still reflected the saints generous
spirit.

In the 1600's, the Dutch presented
Sinterklaas (meaning St. Nicholas) to the colonies. In their
excitement, many English-speaking children uttered the name so quickly that Sinterklaas sounded
like Santy Claus.
After years of mispronunciation, the name evolved into Santa Claus.  In
Germany, he appeared as Weihnachtsmann, in England as Father Christmas, and in France, as
Pèrè Noël, who left small gifts in the children's shoes.

In 1808, American author
Washington Irving created a new version of old St. Nick. This one
rode over the treetops in a horse drawn wagon "dropping gifts down the chimneys of his favorites."
In his satire, Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the
End of the Dutch Dynasty, Irving described Santa as a jolly Dutchman who smoked a long
stemmed clay pipe and wore baggy breeches and a broad brimmed hat. Also, the familiar phrase,
"...laying his finger beside his nose...," first appeared in Irving's story.

That phrase was used again in 1822 in the now-classic poem by Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, "A
Visit from St. Nicholas," more commonly known as
"The Night Before Christmas". His verse
gave an Arctic flavor to Santa's image when he substituted eight tiny reindeer and a sleigh for
Irving's horse and wagon. It is Moore's description of Santa that we most often think of today: "He
had a broad face, and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly."

Up to this point, Santa's physical appearance and the color of his suit were open to individual
interpretation. Then in 1863, Thomas Nast, a German immigrant, gave us a
visual image of the
cheerful giver
that was to later become widely accepted.

When Nast was asked to illustrate Moore's charming verse for a book of children's poems, he
gave us a softer, kinder Santa who was still old but appeared less stern than the ecclesiastical St.
Nicholas. He dressed his elfin figure in red and endowed him with human characteristics. Most
important of all, Nast gave Santa a
home at the North Pole. For twenty-three years, his annual
drawings in Harpers Weekly magazine allowed Americans to peek into the magical world of Santa
Claus and set the stage for the shaping of today's merry gentleman.

Artist Haddon Sundblom added the final touches to Santa's modern image. Beginning in 1931, his
billboard and other advertisements for Coca Cola featured a portly, grandfatherly Santa with
human proportions and a ruddy complexion. Sunblom's exuberant, t
winkle-eyed Santa firmly
fixed the gift-giver's image in the public mind.

St. Nicholas' evolution into today's happy, larger-than-life Santa Claus is a wonderful example of
the blending of countless beliefs and practices from around the world. This benevolent figure
encompasses
all the goodness and innocence of childhood. And because goodness is his
very essence, in every kindness we do, Santa will always be remembered.
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