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Originally, it was St Nicholas, brought to America by the Dutch colonists, who gave birth to the American Santa Claus. It first appeared under this name in 1823 in a poem attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas.
From the 1880s, Santa Claus once again crossed the Atlantic, mixing in Europe with the local traditions of St Nicholas, a strange Nordic "Winter Man" and even traditional bogeymen, such as the Hàns Tràpp Hàns Tràpp in Alsace. The result is a curious mix.
In France, he is known as "Père Noël", and in German-speaking countries as Weihnachtsmann, and in Alsace as Wihnàchtsmànn.
The imagery of 1900 is full of these Father Christmases with their changing appearance, sometimes carrying a bishop's crook, a sack full of toys or a martinet, sometimes dressed in green, red, purple or even multicoloured outfits. In 1931, an advertising campaign by Coca-Cola gave Santa the form we know today, and the influence of American Christmas made him the main distributor of gifts throughout the world.