SBS airs a documentary that looks at the image of Santa around the world, how he differs and comparing mythology.
It is claimed that Saint Nicholas was born into southwest Turkey in the third century. Saint Nicholas became the patron saint of children after he resurrected three boys who had been slaughtered by a butcher during a famine.
The most famous story involved Saint Nicholas throwing a bag of gold coins through the window of a man’s house. The man needed a dowry for his daughter in order for her to marry. This story evolved and it was said that he threw a bag a gold coins down the chimney which landed in stockings that were hanging out to dry.
In The Netherlands, Santa Claus is believed to ride a horse accompanied by Black Peter. Santa brings gifts while Black Peter punishes naughty children.
Taking naughty children, riding a white horse, children leaving food out at night can all be traced back to the Norse God Odin – he too had a long white beard and spent most of the year in a distant land.
During the early 19th century, a prominent New Yorker called Clement Moore wrote the poem: “The night before Christmas” or as it was initially known “a visit from St. Nicholas”.
The German immigrant Thomas Nast was the first to draw a modern day Santa, partly modelled on himself – short, stout and with a handlebar moustache.
In parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, presents are brought by Christkind – a young girl dressed in a gold or white robe, with a tall crown.
In Barcelona and South America the three wise men bring presents on the nights of the 5th and 6th of January.
The winter months in the 1930s were not very good selling times for Coca-Cola. To increase sales, Coca-Cola made the full bodied larger than life Santa we know today.
The Legends of Santa airs Wednesday, 23 December at 8:30pm on SBS ONE.