The history of Santa Claus discussed at free lecture

How did the Catholic figure Saint Nicholas transform into a holiday icon sporting a red suit with flying rei​ndeer? Learn more at a free lecture for grownups offered by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. 

“From Saint Nick to Santa Claus: A Christmas History” will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, presented by Shanny Luft, an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy.  Held in the Pinery Room of the Portage County Library, 1001 Main Street, Stevens Point, the presentation is fourth of the eight-part 2013-2014 Community Lecture Series sponsored by the College of Letters and Science. 

“I am fascinated by the invention of Santa Claus. What accounts for his enduring popularity? My talk explores how a religious tradition gets invented in the 19th century. It’s a story that weaves together writers, artists, religion and commercial interests,” Luft said. “I want to make clear to parents that this topic involves spoiler alerts, so it may not be appropriate for the whole family.” 

Luft came to UW-Stevens Point in 2008 and teaches Religion in America, New Religious Movements, and Religion and Popular Culture. He has given talks on topics ranging from the devil in film to the rise of the religious right in American politics, and recently published an article on Christians and video games. Luft earned a master’s degree in religion and culture from Boston University and a Ph.D. in religion in America from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

The entire College of Letters and Science Community Lecture Serious schedule and previously recorded videos may be viewed at

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