It’s not really a stretch for New Yorkers to claim the jolly, red-suited dude as one of our own. “Sinte Klaas” was the nickname Dutch settlers gave St. Nicholas, a serious figure depicted in bishop’s robes celebrated every December 6.
St. Nicholas evolved closer to the Santa we know now in Chelsea resident Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas.”
Here he’s depicted with a white beard and a sack on his back, climbing down the chimney to fill stockings.
Rather than a big guy in red, St. Nick is elfin, a “little old driver” in a “miniature sleigh” decked all in fur.
He finally became today’s large, red-suited hero thanks to Thomas Nast, the 19th century cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly. In 1863, Nast drew a plump character in a fur-trimmed coat with a stocking cap giving out presents to soldiers.
An 1865 Santa illustration by Nash for Harper’s Weekly has him holding a pipe, that familiar twinkle in his eye.
Tags: A Visit From St. Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore, Harper's Weekly, New Amsterdam holidays, Sinte Klaas, Sinterklaas, St. Nicholas in Dutch New York, T'was the Night Before Christmas, the history of Santa Claus, Thomas Nash