Who was Santa and how is Christmas celebrated around the world? David Attenborough narrates The Legends of Santa, a documentary about Christmas and Santa Claus.
The film takes a peek into who Santa was historically, how he became a symbol for christmas and how traditions and culture from around the world has shaped Santa Claus and the joy he brings.
Santa’s image is almost universally recognizable, yet the jolly old soul, with his bag of gifts, steering his reindeer and sliding down chimneys is a relatively modern image. Although predominantly of Western culture and christian belief, his symbolism and enigmatic figure has carried over to many other countries and culture over the last hundreds of years.
The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, the British figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas (himself also based on Saint Nicholas).
Historically, Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes.
Tales told of Saint Nicholas’ generosity throughout the ages has molded our view of him – effectively creating a new mythological entity.
Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, jolly, white-bearded man—sometimes with spectacles—wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers, a red hat with white fur and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children.
This image of Santa Claus became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. This view of Santa has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, children’s books, films, and advertising throughout modern times.
With the growth of these communication tools, and the internet much later, Santa has been engrossed into our societal values for good. His symbolism has become an all-serving Christmas figure, valuable for marketeers, kids, adults, businesses and many other alike.
- Release date2008
- Full runtime52min
- Directed byHefin Owen
- Narrated byDavid Attenborough