The origins of our Christmas traditions are the most fascinating of any holiday. All our favorite activities can be traced back to specific points in history, and knowing how these things came about just makes celebrating Christmas that much more wonderful.
In 2010, Santa Claus is celebrating his 1,730th birthday! The original Nicholas was born in 280 A.D. in the small country of Lycia, which is now part of modern-day Turkey.
Nicholas became first a priest and then a bishop in the early Christian church. The very first paintings of him show Nicholas wearing the ceremonial robes of a Christian bishop – red trimmed with white. When we see “Santa’s suit” today, we’re seeing those same colors.
Nicholas became famous for gift-giving, usually to the poor. In the early fourth century a legend began to spread about Nicholas coming at night to the home of three poor girls who did not have dowries and therefore could not marry their fiancés. While the girls slept, Nicholas left gold coins in their stockings, which were drying by the fire. That’s how our tradition of Santa filling stockings got its start.
Santa is known my many names all over the world. He became “Santa Claus” in America because many of the first English colonists to arrive to not celebrate Christmas; as Puritans they felt the holiday was disrespectful to Jesus. But their children saw the children of Dutch settlers receiving gifts from someone called “St. Nicholas.” They thought the gift-giver’s name was “Sinter Klass” and anglicized it further to “Santa Claus.”
圣诞老人在世界各地有很多不同的名字。在美国，他是“圣克劳斯”（Santa Claus），因为第一批到来的英国殖民者大多不庆祝圣诞节；身为清教徒，他们觉得过节是对耶稣的不敬。但是他们的孩子看到荷兰殖民者的孩子收到来自一个名叫“圣尼古拉斯”（St. Nicholas）的礼物。他们认为送礼人的名字是“圣特克劳斯”（Sinter Klass），再将名字英译就是“圣克劳斯”。
Many people think Santa’s reindeer were introduced to the holiday in Clement Moore’s wonderful poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which most of us now call “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Moore wrote about Santa and the eight reindeer in 1822. But in 1809 another great American author named Washington Irving wrote a book titled Diedrich Knickerbocker, and in it he wrote about St. Nicholas delivering presents to children “by flying over the treetops in a wagon.” Clement Moore simply expanded on that previous description.
很多人认为在克莱门特?穆尔（Clement Moore）的名诗《圣古拉斯的来访》（A Visit from St. Nicholas）中，将圣诞老人的驯鹿和节日联系了起来，这首诗现在也被称为《圣诞节前夜》（Twas the Night Before Christmas）。穆尔在1822年写了关于圣诞老人和八只驯鹿的故事。然而在1809年，另一名伟大的美国作家华盛顿?欧文（Washington Irving）写了一本书《迪德里奇．尼克巴克》（Diedrich Knickerbocker），他在书中写道圣尼古拉斯坐着马车飞跃在树梢上给孩子送礼物。克莱门特?穆尔只是对以前故事的描述加以扩展。
The first department store Santa appeared in 1841 at J.W. Parkinson’s Dry Goods store in Philadelphia. This Santa tried to slide down a chimney to impress the children who were watching, but he got stuck halfway down.
1841年，圣诞老人出现在第一百货商店—— 费城的帕金森干货商场（J.W. Parkinson’s Dry Goods store in Philadelphia）。圣诞老人试图滑下烟囱，来给正在观看的小孩留下深刻印象，但是他却卡在了那里。
During the Civil War, a magazine artist named Thomas Nast began drawing cartoons of Santa as a diversion for readers from the horrors of war. He sketched Santa as living at the North Pole, and having a lot of elves as his assistants. Everyone believed that must be true.
Mrs. Claus began appearing in Christmas lore in the late 1880s. In 1889 a poet/composer named Katharine Lee Bates wrote a poem called “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.” (Wives in those days were often referred to as “good wives,” or “goody” for short.) In the poem, Mrs. Claus tells Santa that she will deliver gifts that year, since it’s not fair that he gets to have all the fun. In 1910 another poem of Ms. Bates was set to music and published as a song everyone knows – America the Beautiful.
克劳斯夫人于19世纪80年代末的圣诞传说中第一次亮相。1889年，一位诗人、作曲家凯瑟琳?李贝茨（Katharine Lee Bates）写了一首诗《糖果圣克劳斯的雪橇之旅》（Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride）。（在那个时代，妻子经常是 “好妻子”或“糖果”的简称。）在这首诗里，劳克斯夫人告诉圣诞老人，她希望在那一年由她来派送礼物，因为在此之前只有圣诞老人一人享受了其中所有的乐趣，这是不公平的。1910年，贝茨的另一首诗改编成了音乐，发表之后成为人人皆知的一首歌——“美丽的美利坚”（America the Beautiful）。
In 1890 department store Santas began appearing all over America, especially on the East Coast around Boston. They were so popular that parents in other cities joined together and hired passenger trains to take their families to see these Santas.
About this same time, Ralph E. Morris of the New England Telephone Company looked at switchboard lights and proposed that strings of them be hung on Christmas trees- they would be safer than candles.
大约在同一时间，新英格兰电话公司（New England Telephone Company）的拉尔夫?莫里斯（Ralph E. Morris）看着圣诞树上挂着的一串串交换彩灯，而这些比蜡烛更安全。
Our modern-day image of Santa as a stout man is based on Coca-Cola ads from the 1930s. Artist Hans Sundblom used as his model a retired salesman named Les Prentice.
我们现在对于圣诞老人这个身材丰满的形象是基于上个世纪三十年代的可口可乐广告。艺术家汉斯?松德布卢姆（Hans Sundblom）用一个退休的销售员诺士?普伦蒂斯（Les Prentice）作为他的模特。