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Santa Claus, sometimes called Saint Nicholas, is a legendary figure who brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24th. [more below]
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While Saint Nicholas was originally portrayed wearing bishop's robes, today Santa Claus arrives as a plump, jolly, white-bearded man wearing a red suit with white collar and cuffs and black leather belt and boots.
This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the influence of a popular political cartoonist. In the US Santa's image has been maintained and further reinforced through song, radio, television, and films. In Europe and the UK, he is often depicted in a similar manner but commonly called Father Christmas.
Legend has it that Santa Claus lives in the far north, in a land of perpetual snow. The American version of Santa Claus has him living at his house on the North Pole, while Father Christmas is said to reside in the mountains of Lapland Province, Finland.
Santa Claus lives with his wife Mrs. Claus, a countless number of magical elves, and eight flying reindeer; nine if you count Rudolph. Santa Claus makes a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior ("naughty" or "nice").
On Christmas Eve he delivers presents which include toys, candy, and other gifts to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children. He accomplishes this feat in a single night with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.