I ran my own blog from November 2006 till October 2014. All posts are still online, but I don't have time to update it anymore. Please note that all images and media files have been removed when the backup was moved to a new host in early 2016. Enjoy!
Santa Claus is a fictional folklore figure who is presented as bringing gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or on his feast day, December 6. The legend has its basis in tales concerning the historical figure of Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was born around 270 (exact date unknown) in Patara, Lycia, he was Bishop of Myra in Anatolia (in Turkey, though then it was a Greek-speaking Roman Province) and died 6 December 343, Myra, Lycia (thus his feast day December 6). He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, which probably has led to the figure of Santa Clause later on.
Whereas the importance of relics and the business associated with pilgrims and patron saints caused the remains of most saints to be spread over several churches in several countries, St Nicholas is unique in that most of his bones have been preserved in one spot: his grave crypt in Bari.
The Roman Catholic Church has allowed for one scientific survey of the bones. In the late 1950s, during a restoration of the chapel, it allowed a team of hand-picked scientists to photograph and measure the contents of the crypt grave.
In the summer of 2005, the report of these measurements was sent to a forensic laboratory in England. The review of the data revealed that the historical St Nicholas was barely five feet in height (while not exactly small, still shorter than average, even for his time) and had a broken nose.
Some elements of this part of the Saint Nicholas tradition can be traced back to the Germanic god Wodan (Odin). The appearance is similar to some portrayals of this god.
The popular North American form Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas, which in turn is a contracted form of Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas).