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We know the truth.

Santa Claus is real. Santa Claus lives.

But who is he really, and how did he get started?

Many people point to about the third century after Jesus, and a monk named St. Nicholas. He lived in a town called Patara in what we now call Turkey.

St. Nicholas used his energy and time to create material gifts for people in need around his community. Often it would be as simple as a piece of fruit or a few coins.

The townspeople became dependent on his kindness, and they would set shoes out when they had deep personal needs, like a death in the family.

His kindness and charity did not center around the Christmas holiday.

That came later.

Christmas as we know it

The Christian holiday of Christmas was based on the pagan holiday around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Typically this falls on December 21st. Christmas is, of course, the 25th.

This midwinter celebration was a time of joy for Christians, celebrating the birth of Jesus. Around the world this celebration took on local traditions. Almost always, this meant giving gifts. Among the most precious gifts were rare gifts of ripe fruit, and coins.

Sound familiar?

They got the idea from St. Nicholas.

In fact, Santa Claus’s original name still rings in the lyrics of favorite Christmas songs:

Jolly old St. Nicholas   /   Lean your ear this way!

Don’t you tell a single soul / What I’m going to say;

Christmas Eve is coming soon / Now, you dear old man,

Whisper what you’ll bring to me / tell me if you can.

And in our favorite Christmas poem:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

And we still give gifts on that night.

How does Santa Claus get here?

Still, we are left with the universal question. It is a big world, and somehow Santa manages to get to every house, down every chimney, and takes a sample from every cookie plate?

This article is too short to describe miracles of time and space, thermonuclear physics, lightspeed travel, and drafting in a tricked-out sleigh with 9 experienced flying reindeer.

So if your little ones start to get suspicious and ask difficult questions, it is probably easier to just join the massive cover-up and act like you helped.

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