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date: 27 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Little is known for certain about the original St Nicholas, the early-fourth century bishop of Myra, but his identity came to be linked with Christmas by the celebration of his feast day in December and by a few dramatic stories of generosity, kindness, and courage. These stories were enhanced by legendary tales from the famous Council of Nicaea. This chapter gives attention to those stories and their legacy and then traces the development of Santa Claus in America—his image, personality, and cultural status, as well as his role in advertising, marketing, and entertainment. With regards to these developments, the importance of the poem, “The Night Before Christmas,” cannot be overstated. Outside the United States, St Nicholas continues to play a prominent role in Christmas customs, family traditions, and public parades. Consideration is given to various regional traditions and customs, and to notable sidekicks and companions of St Nicholas, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Krampus, and Zwarte Piet.

Keywords: Saint Nicholas, Council of Nicaea, Santa Claus, Myra, Night Before Christmas, Zwarte Piet

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