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The legend of jolly old Santa Claus, or St. Nick, began with a real person: St. Nicholas, who lived many centuries ago. Although he is one of the most popular saints honoured by Christians, very little is actually known about him. He lived during the 4th century in Lycia, a province on the southwest coast of Asia Minor. Tradition says he was born in Patara, a seaport, and travelled to Egypt and Palestine as a young man. Eventually he became bishop of the church at Myra. During the period of persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, he was imprisoned but was released by Diocletian's successor, Constantine the Great. By the 6th century his burial shrine was well known at Myra. In 1087 his remains were moved to Bari, Italy, which became a crowded pilgrimage centre. Devotion to him spread throughout the Christian world, and thousands of churches throughout Europe were named after him. His feast day was set on December 6. The transformation of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus began in Germany,where he was called Kriss Kringle, derived from Christkindle, meaning "Christ child", and he became permanently associated with the Christmas season and gift giving. From there his legend spread to France, where he was called Pere Noel. In the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now New York City, he was called Sinter Claes, which easily became Santa Claus.As Christmas became more widely celebrated, the legend grew. In 1823 Clement C. Moore wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas, portraying Santa Claus riding in a sleigh drawn by "eight tiny reindeer", the same mode of travel he uses in Scandinavia. The first drawing of him that resembles today's Santa Claus was a cartoon by Thomas Nast that appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1866.

Although Santa Claus is normally drawn with the snow of Northern Europe around him, it is clear from the passage that St. Nicholas ------ .

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