How much do you know about the Jolly Old Elf who swings by good little children's homes at Christmas time? This history of Santa Claus gets you started, beginning with Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna (Izmir, now in Turkey).
According to tradition, Nicholas heard about three unmarried sisters who couldn't get married, because they didn't have a dowry. The older sisters had even talked about going into prostitution, in order to get the funds to give their youngest sister a better chance.
Nicholas heard about this, and one night, he crept quietly up to the girls' home and dropped a bag of gold down the chimney. It landed in a stocking drying by the hearth. Nicholas then repeated his action twice more. The girls were saved, Nick's kindness found out -- and the legend of Santa Claus began.
Nicholas lived in the 4th century A.D., but our 'typical' mental picture of Santa Claus didn't arrive until Thomas Nast's drawings in the 1860s. His round-bellied Santa, dressed in fur and tights, looks nothing like the tall robed clergyman that is more typical of Santa Claus figures around the world. Nonetheless, it was Nast's Santa that became the prototype of today's Santa Claus.
Be sure to take a longer look at The North Pole.com -- there are recipes, games and lots of fun worth trying this month.