|"Merry Old Santa Claus," Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881, p.8-9.|
Thomas Nast “invented” the image popularly recognized as Santa Claus. Nast first drew Santa Claus for the 1862 Christmas season Harper’s Weekly cover and center-fold illustration to memorialize the family sacrifices of the Union during the early and, for the north, darkest days of the Civil War. Nast’s Santa appeared as a kindly figure representing Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. When Nast created his image of Santa Claus he was drawing on his native German tradition of Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop known for his kindness and generosity. In the German Christian tradition December 6 was (and is) Saint Nicholas day, a festival day honor of Saint Nicholas and a day of gift giving. Nast combined this tradition of Saint Nicholas with other German folk traditions of elves to draw his Santa in 1862. The claim that Nast “invented’ Santa Claus in 1862 is thus accurate, but the assertion overlooks the centuries-long antecedents to his invention.