Our VOA listener question this week comes from Iran. Nima Foroud asks about Santa Claus and Christmas Day.
To understand Santa Claus, we must go back sixteen-hundred years, to the fourth century. A Roman Catholic Church official of that time, Nicholas of Myra, became famous for his many good works. After he died, the Church declared him a saint. He became a special saint for children. On the anniversary of his death each year, good children received gifts.
In the Netherlands, people told children the gifts came from Saint Herr Nicholas. In the Dutch language, his name was "Sinter Klaas." The Dutch brought this tradition to America. Americans called the gift giver "Santa Claus". And they included him in their Christmas celebration.
History experts say the first description of Santa Claus in the United States appeared in the poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas." It was published in Eighteen Twenty-Three.
In the Eighteen Sixties, artist Thomas Nast drew a picture of Santa Claus for a newspaper. He drew a fat, smiling, old man with a long, white beard. Santa Claus was dressed in a red suit with white fur.
Tradition says that on the night before Christmas, Santa Claus travels from the North Pole through the air in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. He stops at each house to leave gifts for children. Gene Autry sings about him in this song.
Some Americans open their gifts the night before Christmas. Others wait until Christmas morning.
On Christmas Day, many Americans go to church or visit friends or family members. They eat a special meal. Or they help celebrate the holiday by serving meals to homeless people. But wherever Americans go on Christmas Day, they always wish each other "Merry Christmas".