Santa Claus, as we know him today in American, was made popular throughout the world by Coca Cola ads and Clement Moore's story "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ('Twas the Night Before Christmas) so there are many similarities. They all are kind and give presents. Most wear red. Some are fat and short, others are thinner and taller.
In reality, in the beginning there was St. Nicholas, a greek born around 280 AD who became bishop of Myra, a Roman town in the south of Asia Minor in mored day Turkey. Nicholas earned a reputation as a fierce defender of the Christian faith in the years of persecution and spent many years in prison. None of the early representations of St. Nicholas look fat and jolly. As recently proven by forensic anthropological studies of the saint's actual remains resting in a cathedral in Bari, Puglia, Nicholas was an thin, old man, with olive skin, a broken nose with a beard and gray hair. So much for that jolly, red nose and rosely cheeks.
Still, the legend lives on all around the world, with Santa Claus and Babbo Natale representing the Christmas Spirit--Spirito di Natale. His jolly, kind, all-knowing face is a sign of love to children... a reminder than in fact, they are loved... by God, by Santa and by their parents and siblings. He is a symbol of what Christmas is all about--the Good Life that God gave us.
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