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JOLLY OLD ELF

Where did the name Santa Claus come from? Why do we have "Santa Claus" while the English have "Father Christmas?"

The name "Santa Claus" is an americanism that dates back to late colonial times. The first mention of the jolly old elf comes from the New York Gazette in 1773, where he is referred to as "St. A Claus." It was not the English who gave birth to the now traditional figure; rather, it was the Dutch.When Dutch settlers came to New Amsterdam (now New York), they brought with them many traditions. One was the celebration of St. Nicholas, a 4th-century bishop of Asia Minor, who was regarded as the patron saint of young girls and children. The Dutch believed that the saint, whom they called "Sinterklaas," protected children and secretly provided dowries for the ddaughters of poor citizens. A celebration in honor of "Sinterklaas" is an American variation of this name.

In the 19th century Santa Claus came to be identified with "Father Christmas," who is a personification of the Christmas holidays. The tradition of Father Christmas dates back to the 17th century.