It’s that time of year again — the time of year when “stockings are hung on the mantle with care” as families wait for Santa Claus to slide down the chimney. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas you may be wondering: “Why does Santa come down the chimney?” It seems like an impractical move for a big-bellied man with a large sack of toys. Still, this mythology has a special place in our hearts, and we’re happy to provide you with its origins (and some bonus holiday safety tips) as you celebrate around the fireplace this year.

Santa Claus, as we know him, really came to be in the 1800s. In 1812, Washington Irving published Knickerbocker’s History of New York. The book includes the first known reference of St. Nicholas “rattling down the chimney.” This idea of Santa Claus coming down the chimney was then popularized by the 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” also known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” This poem brought about the Santa we all know and love — plump, jolly and tumbling down the chimney.

However, Santa was not the first magical figure to enter buildings through the chimney. As early as the 1400s, there are written records of the widespread belief that witches, elves, fairies and other occult could pass through walls or fly up and down chimneys. These beliefs influenced various European holiday figures, including Italy’s La Befana and Germany’s Pelznickel, who travel via chimney during the holiday season. Legends involving the St. Nicholas of 4th century Turkey tell of him dropping bags of gold down the chimneys of poor families (although chimneys had not yet been invented at that time). European immigrants carried these stories to America, and they influenced the mythology of Santa Claus as we know it today.

So, how can you keep Santa (and yourselves) safe this holiday season?

  • Schedule a professional sweep to ensure that your chimney is in safe working order. (You wouldn’t want to surprise Santa with a chimney fire.)
  • Don’t place your Christmas tree, wrapped packages, gift boxes or other combustible materials too close to the fireplace.
  • Don’t burn wrapping paper or other scraps in your fireplace.
  • Don’t dispose of your tree in your fireplace; the wood has not been properly seasoned.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher and working smoke detectors near your fireplace in case of an emergency.

Your Brick + Ember Outfitters hope you and your families have a safe and happy holiday season. And don’t worry, Santa can find his way into homes without fireplaces. However, if you’d like to make his work easier, and your winters cozier, you may want to consider installing one.