The modern Santa Claus brings together current representations of the gift-bearer, of religious or popular inspiration, with a pre-existing British character. The latter dates back to at least the 17th century, and there are still some period illustrations in which he is represented as a bearded and portly gentleman, dressed in a green cloak up to the feet and adorned with fur.
He represented the spirit of Christmas goodness, and is found in Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol under the name of Present Spirit of Christmas. The traditional home of Santa Claus changes according to traditions. In the United States it is claimed that he lives in Alaska while in Canada his laboratory is indicated in the north of the country.
In Europe, the Finnish version is more widespread, which places it in a village near the much larger Finnish city of Rovaniemi, in Lapland, exactly on the Arctic Circle. According to Norwegians, his residence is Drøbak, where Santa's post office is located.
Other traditions speak of Dalecarlia, in Sweden, and of Greenland. In the countries where he is identified with San Basilio he is sometimes made to live in Caesarea in Cappadocia. In the United States, tradition has it that on the evening of Christmas Eve they leave a glass of milk and cookies for Santa Claus.
In England his meal consists of mince pie and sherry instead. British and American children also leave a carrot outside the home for Santa's reindeer; they were once told that if they weren't good all year round they would find a piece of coal in the sock instead of sweets.
Gifts for Xmas
Christmas gifts refers to the custom, at midnight on December 24th or the following morning, of exchanging gifts between family and friends. The tradition of exchanging gifts is very old, and presumably is of pagan origin.
For example, it is certain that in the countries of Northern Europe it was customary to exchange gifts on the day of the Winter Solstice, as a form of greeting for the beginning of the winter season. Exchanging gifts is one of the key aspects of the modern celebration of Christmas, making it the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses around the world.
At Christmas, people exchange gifts based on the Christian tradition associated with Saint Nicholas and the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that were given to the baby Jesus by the Magi. Giftgiving in the Roman celebration of Saturnalia may have influenced Christian customs, but on the other hand the Christian central dogma of the Incarnation nevertheless firmly established the structural principle of that recurring event in giving and receiving gifts but unique, because it was the biblical Magi, together with all their fellow men, who received the gift of God through man's renewed participation in divine life.