Santa Claus has been called by several different names throughout the years. Traditions and legends of Santa Claus for the evolution of the modern-day Santa may have been based on the early Dutch legend of Sinterklaas, originating in the 1600's.
Santa Claus really started to get famous when American author Washington Irving published stories about Santa Claus, referring to him as Saint Nicholas who arrived on Christmas Eve bringing presents for children.
Santa Claus changed and became more famous when writer Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem in 1823 about a Christmas Eve visit from Saint Nicholas, better known as "The Night Before Christmas" (listed below). Millions of children now could have a consistent description of Santa Claus and his eight flying reindeer.
'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;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."
American magazines picked up on the popularity of Santa Claus, and many different versions of Santa Claus were published over the next 50 years. Santa Claus even began to appear in advertisements for popular products.
The most famous reindeer, red nosed Rudolph started to appear in the late 1930's.
Santa Claus, Rudolph, and the other reindeer would get periodic boosts in popularity when songs, stories, movies, or videos were released about them. Some of the more significant of there were:
Santa Claus is coming to Town
Jolly old St. Nick
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
Around the world Santa Claus is known as:
English - Kris Kringle or Father Christmas = The Santa Claus name more likely evolved from the name of Saint Nicholas.
Belgium - De Kerstman (Christmas Man) is celebrated on Dec.
Italy - Babbo Natale
Germany - Weihnachtsmann or Sankt Nikolaus
Sweden - Jultomten, or Christmas Brownie
Hawaii - Kanakaloka
Chile - Viejo Pascuerro
France - Pere Noel
Japan - Hoteiosho - a priest who bears gifts or Santa Kurohsu
Russia - Ded Moroz - or Grandfather Frost who is accompanied by his grand daughter Snegurochka (Miss Snow or Snow Maiden) - note: "Babushka" or elderly woman does not appear in Russian Christmas stories.