To people all over the world, Christmas is a season of giving and receiving presents. In Scandinavian and other European countries, Father Christmas, or Saint Nicholas, comes into houses in the night and leaves gifts for the children. Saint Nicholas is represented as a kindly man with a red cloak and long white beard. He visited houses and left gifts, bringing people happiness. Another character, the Norse God Odin, rode on a magical flying horse across the sky in the winter to reward people with gifts. These different legends came to make the present day Santa Claus.
Immigrant settlers brought Father Christmas to the United States. Father Christmas’s name was gradually changed to Santa Claus, from the Dutch name for Father Christmas, which is Sinter Claas. Santa Claus took shape in the United States. Americans gave Santa Claus a white beard, dressed him in a red suit and made him a cheery old gentleman.
American children believe that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole with his wife. All year he lists the names of children, both those who have been good and those who have been bad. He decides what presents to give to the good children.
Santa Claus gets his list of toys from the millions of children who write to him at the North Pole. Children also find Santa Claus at shopping malls across the country. They sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, Santa rides his sleigh pulled by eight reindeer loaded with presents. The reindeer pull him and his sleigh through the sky to deliver presents to children all around the world, that is, if they had been good all year.