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Santa. Sinter Klause. Jolly Old St. Nicholas. Whatever name you may call him, you can’t escape his ubiquity around the holiday season each year. As a company that caters especially to men with beards, we take notice when there is a popular holiday centered around a bearded figure. We’d like to think that if Santa were to try one of our excellent beard balms that he would laugh with joy at how nice it makes his beard feel and smell. Outside of that iconic beard, when we think of him, we think of a hefty and jolly older gentleman with an eye-catching red suit. But, is that always how he looked? When did the Santa we all know and love become the way we think of him today? Has Santa always had a beard or is that a modern concoction? Let’s dive in and find out. Your patience will be rewarded, just don’t peek ahead!
Ok, so yes Santa is definitely real, just not in the way that most youngin’s think. Santa Claus is based on a real life man named Nicholas Lipensky who lived during the late 300’s in what would become known as modern day Turkey. He was famous for his generosity and gift giving prowess, especially to children. He would put coins in shoes left outside of his village's homes and help those in need with a timely gift.
Nicholas would give many gifts away, but do so in secret, like at night time or when people weren’t home. Similarly to how modern day Santa sneaks in during the night while we are asleep. He ended up gaining sainthood after he passed and became the patron saint of children and gift giving. He must have been pretty good at giving gifts to still have his memory celebrated almost 1,800 year later!
The answer is… Yes! As far as we can tell, the earliest depictions of St. Nicholas are of an older gentleman with a white beard. There is a famous painting of him that dates back to 1294 in the Church of St. Nicholas in Novgorod, Russia that depicts a skinny, older, balding man with a short-ish white beard. Pretty far from the modern day thought of Santa, but in the same ballpark. The modern depictions have him gaining a few pounds and show him with more hair on the roof and a fuller beard, but the resemblance is there all these years later.
Well, before the days of the internet, people used to get their news and learn interesting things about the world from these things called “magazines.” Kids, ask your grandparents. Now, magazines were very popular and were relatively cheap to make and to buy, which made them a staple in just about every American home (and bathroom).
One such news magazine was called “Harpers Weekly.” This magazine was wildly popular in the U.S. in the late 1800’s and every year they published a Christmas Edition. The most famous of which was for Christmas in the year 1881 which featured an illustration on the cover by Thomas Nast called “Merry Old Santa Claus.” This illustration features a rotund, jolly santa figure holding a bundle of toys and smoking a long stemmed pipe. More importantly, he is wearing his iconic red fur suit and has a thick fur cap on and on his back is a large bag filled to the brim with toys. This is considered to be the first recorded depiction of the “modern” Santa that we all know and love. Check out the illustration here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Santa%27s_Portrait_TNast_1881.jpg
That depiction proved to be very popular and it was re-imagined and perpetuated for years to come, and the rest, as they say, is history!
No matter what you do for your holiday shopping this year, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season from Better Man Beard. Ho ho ho!