Santa Claus: Washington Irving and St. Nicholas
The St. Nicholas we know today needed the help of writer Washington Irving to establish a toehold in this country. In 1809 Irving’s satirical A History of New York raised St. Nicholas to a position of importance in New York’s Dutch-American community, primarily as a symbol of ethnic identity. In doing so, he made a few changes to the traditional European image of the saint. Irving replaced the tall, somber, and commanding man in a red bishop’s robe with a short, round, jolly Dutchman who smoked a long-stemmed pipe and dressed in colonial garb.