A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS (Illustration) Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Archeological Wonders Biographies Fiction Film History Social Studies World History Famous People

This 1899 image depicts how Santa Claus was perceived in America by the end of the ninteenth century.


Clement Moore wrote a much-loved poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas"—now known as "The Night Before Christmas"—on Christmas Eve, 1822.

A gift for his six children, it was the first time anyone described Saint Nicholas as fat and jolly. (Moore probably derived the description from other literary works referring to Dutch merchants in those terms.)

It wasn’t the first time a reindeer was part of the Santa Claus story, though. That occurred a year earlier, in a poem called The Children’s Friend. Expanding the number of reindeer from one to eight, Moore also gave them names.

About 40 years after A Visit From St. Nicholas was published, Thomas Nast used Moore’s "fat and jolly" description to help create the familiar Santa Claus of today. As an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, Nast created numerous Christmas Drawings.

His most-famous depicts St. Nick with a rotund belly while his first, from 1863, shows Santa siding with the Union Army. That drawing, requested by President Lincoln, demoralized the Confederates.

Harper’s Weekly published this print of a Thomas Nast engraving, circa 1889, entitled “Christmas Station.” It features a sign on the chimney: “Santa Claus Stop Here Please.”

Nast’s engravings depict children calling, or mailing, their mounting requests to a Santa who tries to please. Instead of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, we now have Saint Nicholas, the patron saint for children.

Clement Moore and Thomas Nast, particularly, helped to create that fundamental transition. One can only wonder what the real Saint Nicholas would make of his gift-giving legend today.

And ... one can only imagine what Dorey Walker would have said in Miracle on 34th Street had she known what you now know!

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: May 05, 2019

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"A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2006. Jan 25, 2020.
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