By the twelfth century the legends
surrounding St. Nicholas were widely known and accepted. The tales of the
marvelous deeds attributed to him had been carried across Europe and Asia
Minor by wandering minstrels, crusaders, nomad gypsies, and the occasional
Having been a recognized saint for some
300 years and a favorite folk hero for 600 years. the physical image of
Santa differed from culture to culture mainly due to lack of
communication. The means of communication in those days were simply too
basic to permit a physical description of Santa acceptable to all.
Usually, St. Nicholas’ beard had been
pictured as dark. The beard did not change to white until after 1300 A. D.
Since Christianity was still spreading, the legends of St. Nicholas were
being interwoven with various pagan traditions and lore, including those
of the Norse god Odin. He was visualized as a presence with a long white
beard, riding a horse in the sky.
The ability to fly eventually took hold.
Until then however, St. Nicholas was generally an earth-bound gypsy
wandering from house to house with his gifts and his band of gnomes. (Some
of the gnomes had their own identities. See Black Peter).