News and Media

A combination of videotaped interviews, articles written by Tom Jerman for such institutions as the American Antiquarian Society, podcasts, and news articles posted on the internet.


202 Sante Claus

Rarest and Most Important Christmas Documents

How Six-Year-Old Stephen Salisbury III Rescued One of the Rarest and Most Important Christmas Documents in American History

Most members of the American Antiquarian Society are aware of the enormous contributions made by the Salisbury family of Worcester County, Massachusetts. Stephen Salisbury II served as president of the Society from 1854 until his death in 1884, and his son, Stephen Salisbury III, served as president from 1887 until his death in 1905. (A half-length portrait of Stephen Salisbury III, as a young man, c.1856 appears below.)

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A Collection Of Santas

Asheville Resident Pens Book on History of Santa Claus

Tom A. Jerman, a resident of Biltmore Park in Asheville has published a book telling the comprehensive history of St. Nicholas and the world’s midwinter gift-givers.

The book, titled “Santa Claus Worldwide: A History of St. Nicholas and Other Holiday Gift Bringers” showcases the extreme diversity in their depictions as well as the many traits and functions these characters share.

Jerman got the idea for the book after collecting Santa Claus figures for decades and wanting to learn more about them.


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Golden Glow Logo

The History of Santa | Santa Claus Collecting

Opening the Door

The series “Opening the Door” was designed by the Golden Glow of Christmas Past to give non-members a better sense of what the Glow, and its members, do.  In this interview, posted on YouTube, Tom is interviewed about his compulsive collecting habits, writing the book, and the history of Santa. 

Wc Logo Circle

Weird Christmas Podcast

Santa Is Not St. Nick

Weird Christmas Podcast, operated by “Craig Kringle,” focuses on the more unusual aspects of Christmas.  In this episode, he interviews Tom on the subject “Santa Is Not St. Nick,” a discussion designed to keep people from confusing or conflating the two characters. 

What If Santa Celebrated His Bicentennial And No One Came to the Party?

Popular Culture Association-American Culture Association

2021 National Conference—Folklore Area

June 2, 2021

Nowhere and Everywhere

Presented by Tom A. Jerman, Independent Scholar

Background of Presenter

Author – Tom A. Jerman, Independent Scholar


  • Practiced law from 1981 to 2015.
  • In 2020, McFarland & Co. published Santa Claus Worldwide: A History of St. Nicholas and Other Holiday Gift-Bringers.
  • Last week, the Independent Publisher Book Awards awarded the book its Gold Medal in the category of Holiday books for 2021. 
  • Currently working on a book about authorship of “The Night Before Christmas.”
  • Blogger on


2021 Is Bicentennial of Santa Claus


  • Although a number of theories have been articulated, the question of when and how the midwinter gift-giver known as Santa Claus arrived in America has never been definitively resolved.
  • The thesis of this presentation is that the original American Santa Claus was created by printer William B. Gilley and illustrator Arthur Stansbury in an 1821 children’s book, The Children’s Friend: A New-Year’s present, to the little ones from five to twelve.   
  • Thus, 2021 is the bicentennial of Santa Claus in America.
  • Unfortunately, this anniversary—and the credit due Gilley and Stansbury—has been studiously ignored by scholars and media alike.

The Children’s Friend

Published in 1821, The Children’s Friend Was Lost in History Until Rediscovery in 1953

Original Illustration Santa Claus

The Children’s Friend contained first depiction in America of “Santeclaus,” flying reindeer.

American Antiquarian Society

Yale Have Copies

1821 Santeclaus With Stockings At Bed Arthur Stansbury The Children's Friend

1821 Santeclaus With Stockings At Bed Arthur Stansbury The Children’s Friend



Celebrating Christmas Before Christ


  • For thousands of years before the birth of Christ, humans celebrated the Winter Solstice with weeks of feasting, drinking, gifts, dancing, costumes, and bonfires.
  • The celebrations typically featured a shaman or pagan god with a long white beard who acted as grand marshal or gift-giver for the celebration. 
  • The Romans provide the best example of how the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice resembled our holiday season: 
    • Saturnalia, a seven-day agricultural festival, was the first of three festivals;  
    • December 25, the astronomical winter solstice when Christ was born, marked the death and rebirth of the sun god (“Dies Natalis Solis Invicti”);  
    • A multi-day New Year’s celebration (“Kalends”).
  • In roughly 330 C.E., Roman Emperor Constantine I designated December 25 as the birth of the Son of God rather than the Sun God—but the pagan festival remained largely intact. 

Pagans Celebrating “Christmas” Before Christ

Chief Germanic God Odin Wild Hunt Chief Germanic God Odin Wild Hunt

Chief Germanic God Odins Female Companion Berchta Chief Germanic God Odin’s Female Companion Berchta Nordic God Thor On Chariot With Goats Nordic God Thor On Chariot With Goats

Pagans Celebrating “Christmas” Before Christ

 The image on left – Mesopotamian gods An, Enki headed Akitu, annual New Year’s celebration.

The image below – Roman God Saturn looked like Santa Claus with dragons instead of reindeer.

Roman God Saturn On Sleigh


During Middle Ages, St. Nicholas Became Christian Figurehead for Midwinter Giving

During Middle Ages, the Catholic Church sought to replace the pagan gods with Christian figures as gift-giver.

The reasons for selection of St. Nicholas was likely a matter of convenience.

  • There is no evidence Nicholas of Myra actually existed, and the stories about him did not surface until hundreds of years after his reported death.
  • By 1200 C.E., after Bari retrieved relics from Myra, he had become one of world’s most popular saints.
  • Because of a flaw in calculating leap days under the Julian Calendar, by 1500 C.E. the actual Winter Solstice was about December 9—much closer to December 6 than December 25. 
  • Other saints (e.g., St. Martin of Tours, St. Lucia) were also drafted to serve as Christian gift-givers on pagan holidays near their feast days.

Turning Pagan God Odin Into St. Nicholas Required Only Dressing Him as a Catholic Bishop


St Nicholas

St Nicholas


The Protestant Reformation Led to Replacement Of Nicholas by “Terror Men” in Northern Europe

  • To avoid use of a Catholic saint as holiday gift-giver, Protestants in Germany created secular gift-givers who looked like ragged, homeless versions of St. Nicholas.
  • Protestant gift-givers celebrated Christmas, not the feast of Nicholas, a Catholic saint.
  • These “terror men” were stern, scary-looking figures who typically traveled alone and carried bundles of switches for “bad” children.
  • They had dozens of different names, including Knecht Ruprecht, many variations of Nicholas, several variations of Santa Claus.  
  • Pelznickel traveled to Germany, changed name to Belsnickle.

The Protestant Reformation Led to Replacement Of Nicholas by “Terror Men” in Northern Europe

Knecht Ruprecht 1863

Knecht Ruprecht 1863

1863 illustration Der Pelzmärte

This 1863 illustration shows “Der Pelzmärte,” or “Furry Martin,” the long-haired, dirty, unkempt, switch-carrying version of St. Martin of Tours, the Catholic saint whose feast day, November 11, was viewed as the dividing line between fall and winter and the beginning of “the forty days of St. Martin,” the equivalent of Advent.

Knecht Ruprecht Berthold Woltz 1881

Knecht Ruprecht Berthold Woltz 1881

The Protestant Reformation Led to Replacement Of Nicholas by “Terror Men” in Northern Europe

Knecht Ruprecht Part1 Ludwig Richter 1847

Knecht Ruprecht Part1 Ludwig Richter 1847

Another German character, Herr Winter, Created Look of Pelznickel, Weihnachtsmann in Mid-1800s


64 [de 1847] Herr Winter (moritz Von Schwind, Munchner Bilderbogen, 1847) Herr Winter (moritz Von Schwind, Munchner Bilderbogen, 1847)

Herr Winter With Tree Herr Winter With Tree (moritz Von Schwind, Munchner Bilderbogen, 1847) Weihnachtsmann Weihnachtsmann

Another German character, Herr Winter, Created Look of Pelznickel, Weihnachtsmann in Mid-1800s


64 [de 1847] Herr Winter (moritz Von Schwind, Munchner Bilderbogen, 1847) Herr Winter (moritz Von Schwind, Munchner Bilderbogen, 1847)

Herr Winter With Tree Herr Winter With Tree (moritz Von Schwind, Munchner Bilderbogen, 1847) Weihnachtsmann Weihnachtsmann

Who Were St. Nicholas & Santa Claus, Anyway?

  • In theory, St. Nicholas was a Catholic bishop who lived in Myra, a city in what is now Turkey, and died in the early fourth century.
  • There are no contemporaneous records about Nicholas; his name appears on some of the attendance records for the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. but some scholars believe it was added over a thousand years later based on his fame. 
  • The first biography of Nicholas was written three centuries after his death.
  • His fame arose in twelfth century from a raid by the city of Bari, Italy, in 1087 to  obtain his relics (bones) after Myra came under Islamic control. 
  • Santa Claus may have been a local name for one of the post-Reformation terror men in Germany; at a minimum, many close variations (e.g., Santi Klaus, Sente Klaus) existed and spellings could easily have changed from sixteenth century.  

Before The Children’s Friend in 1821, St. Nicholas, Santa Claus Were Little Known in America

  • Educated Americans would have known of Nicholas as a Catholic saint, but many colonies prohibited celebration of Christmas or recognition of saints.
  • In 1809, Washington Irving published an historical satire about New York that contained a few references to purported Dutch infatuation with St. Nicholas; the joke was dressing him in Dutch clothing.
  • In December 1810, the New-York Historical Society held a dinner in which it distributed a broadside with St. Nicholas and a Dutch poem about him.
  • In 1812, Washington Irving published a second edition of A History of New York that contained more references to St. Nicholas and new references to his role as gift-giver on December 6.
  • Based on absence of historical references, it appears these publications did not generate much interest about St. Nicholas or Santa Claus before 1821.

Early Nicholas Depictions Look Little Like Santa

St. Nicholas Icon 1750

St. Nicholas Icon 1750

Zwarte Piet En Sinterklaas 1850

Zwarte Piet En Sinterklaas 1850

St Nicholas 343 A D

St Nicholas 343 A D

Major Theories on Santa’s Arrival in America

  • Santa Claus and St. Nicholas are essentially the same figure, and Santa Claus is merely an Americanization of St. Nicholas. 
  • Santa Claus was created by Clement C. Moore in the 1822 poem that became known as “The Night Before Christmas.”
  • Santa Claus was created by Gilley and Stansbury in 1821 in The Children’s Friend.  
  • Descendants of Henry Livingston, Jr., a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., farmer, who died in 1828, say he wrote “The Night Before Christmas” in 1808 but never published it.
  • U.C. Professor Charles W. Jones argued in a 1954 paper that author Washington Irving “made” Santa in his 1809 historical satire, A History of New York.

Charles W. Jones’ Theory That Irving Made Santa Was Premised on Use of Wrong Edition of Book

  • In 1953, U.C. Professor Charles W. Jones gave a speech to the New-York Historical Society in which he opined that Washington Irving “made” Santa Claus in an 1809 satire about Dutch colonization of New York.
  • Jones’ premise was that there was no evidence of St. Nicholas in the U.S. prior to Irving’s book and that Irving’s references popularized the saint.
  • Jones’ sole evidence of this popularity was that in December 1810, a year after Irving’s book was released, a broadside and poem about St. Nicholas were released in New York City.
  • The fatal flaw in Jones’ argument was that he was working with the 1812 edition of Irving’s book, and that the references to St. Nicholas upon which Jones relies did not appear in the 1809 edition.
  • Minor references to St. Nicholas in Irving’s History could not be credited with creation of Santa Claus in any event.

Santa Claus Cannot Be Conflated With St. Nicholas

    • A number of theories on when and how Santa arrived in U.S. are premised on assumption that Santa is merely an American version of St. Nicholas.
    • Santa Claus cannot be conflated with St. Nicholas any more than the world’s other midwinter gift-givers (i.e., Father Christmas, Ded Moroz, Knecht Ruprecht).
      • The two have common ancestors but St. Nicholas was neither the original midwinter gift-giver nor the immediate predecessor to Santa Claus.
      • St. Nicholas was a Catholic saint whereas Santa was purely secular. 
      • Protestants would not celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day, a Catholic holiday, so a secular or non-Christian gift-giver was needed.

  • St. Nicholas was tall, solemn bishop; Santa was jolly, chubby old man covered in furs, soot who in The Children’s Friend carried a bundle of switches.  

The “Santeclaus” in The Children’s Friend Had Many Characteristics of Santa, Not St. Nicholas

  • First illustrated version of Santa Claus in America ;
  • First use of name Santeclaus, which had roots in German “terror men;”
  • First time the midwinter gift-giver rode in sleigh pulled by flying reindeer;
  • First time the midwinter gift-giver arrived on Christmas Eve instead of St. Nicholas’ Day;
  • Unlike St. Nicholas, he landed on roof, entered through chimney; 
  • Unlike St. Nicholas’ bishop garb, he wore heavy fur coat and hat;  
  • Unlike St. Nicholas, Santeclaus was secular figure; and
  • Unlike St. Nicholas, he carried handful of switches to punish children.

Overwhelming Evidence Clement C. Moore Used The Children’s Friend to Write His Famous Poem

  • Clement C. Moore, the wealthy and well-educated son of the Episcopal bishop of New York and president of Columbia College, was a professor of language and religion at General Theological Seminary and semi-professional poet.
  • In 1822, Moore wrote and read to his family an untitled poem that became known as “The Night Before Christmas.”
  • Moore worked across the street and conducted business with Gilley; these ties, and the inexplicable similarities between Moore’s poem and Gilley’s book, make it virtually certain that Moore lifted the story from The Children’s Friend.
  • One of Moore’s house guests provided the poem to a newspaper editor in Troy, N.Y., which published it anonymously in 1823.
  • Over next fifty years, the poem became world famous, establishing the look of Santa Claus and the pattern for celebration of the holiday on Christmas morning. 

Poughkeepsie Farmer Henry Livingston, Jr. Could Not Have Written Moore’s Poem in 1808

    • In 1920, descendants of Poughkeepsie farmer Henry Livingston, Jr., promoted a claim Livingston read poem to his children in 1808, but never published it.
    • Somehow, the descendants claim, Moore obtained a copy of “Livingston’s poem” and read it to his family as his own work in 1822. 
    • Neither Livingston nor children who purportedly heard poem in 1808 ever publicly claimed authorship, and no copies have ever been discovered.
    • The only “evidence” of claim is hearsay from great-grandchildren or more distant relatives.
    • Despite characterization of Livingston as prolific poet, he wrote virtually nothing for last three decades of life.
A new book is showing readers about the history of Santa Claus! Author Tom Jerman joins Cody to talk about the book.