Why does Santa Claus come down the chimney?
By Jason Freeman firstname.lastname@example.org December 9, 2011 6:14AM
Jason Freeman is the Answer Man.
Updated: January 10, 2012 8:12AM
Given the fact that Santa Claus seemingly has the expert skills of a cat burglar and the magical powers of Harry Potter, why would he choose to make his Christmas Eve entry by sliding down your chimney? Wouldn’t the front door be a whole heck of a lot easier?
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a house that didn’t have a chimney, but this particular legend has always baffled me.
According to Joseph J. Walsh in his book “Were They Wise Men or Kings?: The Book of Christmas Questions,” the chimney story probably entered into popular culture via a 17th century Dutch painting by Jan Steen titled “The Feast of St. Nicholas.”
The painting, which depicts a room of folks opening gifts on St. Nicholas Day, also shows two toddlers and an adult looking up at a nearby chimney with amazement on their faces.
“It is clear that St. Nicholas — or at the very least the gifts he brought — came down the chimney,” Walsh said.
The chimney legend may also have come from an early story about St. Nicholas tossing bags of gold through a poor man’s window.
“It is not so great a leap to have him toss the money down through the chimney instead, especially since in northern climes people probably would have shut and barred their windows in the cold of December,” Walsh said.