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The Secret of Santa

We’ve got something to tell you about Santa Claus. We’re not proud of this; this is something we should have addressed a long time ago. I guess we were just hoping you would figure it out on your own.

You don’t have to wait until Christmas Eve to wait for a gift from Santa, if you know what to do. In fact, in a few days it’ll be Saint Nicholas’ Eve, on December 5. That’s right: you could have been getting some pretty awesome loot all these years, but we didn’t think you were ready for the truth.

The truth is Santa Claus goes by a lot of names, and he’s been around for a long, long time. This is probably a lot to take in, so we’re going to slow down and explain things.

Saint Basil
While this profligate gift giver has been around a long time, it’s hard to say exactly how long. The first sightings might have been as far back as Ancient Greece, though he’s called Saint Basil there.

Instead of giving gifts on Christmas Eve, in Greece Saint Basil chooses to give children gifts on January 1. In honor of Saint Basil, Greek families bake cakes with a coin inside, which provides good luck for whomever discovers it.

Sinterklaas
In Western Europe and Russia, our dear Santa operates under the pseudonym of Sinterklaas, Saint Nicolaas or sometimes, simply “The Good Holy Man.” He’s got all kinds of unorthodox practices–to be honest, he can be kind of a ham–but at his heart, is incredibly generous.

In France, for instance, he’s known to leave oranges, coins and other trinkets in good children’s shoes overnight. Some say he wears a red cape and carries a giant, leather-bound book in which he takes notes on children’s behavior.

Sinterklaas is said to leave gifts in European homes by dropping them down chimneys, riding a white horse across the rooftops. In America, he’s purported to love Coca Cola. Others even contend Santa’s actually a Norse god named Odin, but even we think that’s kind of farfetched.

Jolly Old Saint Nick
In fact, the only thing people truly agree about Santa Claus is that he’s a kind-hearted soul, has an abiding love for the wintry season and possesses a flowing white beard. That much is difficult to dispute. What’s less clear is if he travels with a pack of reindeer, on a white horse or simply quietly drifts from door to door with a bag of oranges.

Perhaps Mr. Claus presents us with these mixed messages intentionally. Maybe he’s trying to tell us something about how different everyone is. Telling us how different our stories are, but that there’s something about giving gifts that connects each of us. Maybe that beard is hiding a knowing smile.

So this December 5 on Saint Nick’s Day, when you see him at a department store, ask him to say something in German, or Dutch. He’ll probably laugh his signature laugh, but don’t let him fool you. There’s more to Santa than meets the eye. There’s a mystery to his generosity, but maybe that’s just a part of the gift.