Today our conception of Santa Claus is that of a somewhat large, Magical, Metaphysical Elf. At the very least Santa Claus is thought of as a jolly, old fat man with a long white beard who lives at the North Pole and gives presents to all the good children of the world on Christmas Eve. But where did this idea of Santa Claus originate?
Few would suspect that the roots of "Santa Claus" begin with the Norse Myths, particularly the Norse god,"Odin," as well as a generous dose of the Christian legend St. Nicholas of Myra. The holiday traditions of Christmas, stem from Germanic countries pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, Yule.
A few times a year, but especially at "Yule", Odin was recorded as leading his hunting party, complete with Valkyries, through the sky. This event was known as the "Wild Hunt".
On this wild ride through the sky, Odin was described as riding a horse with eight legs named Sleipnir, that could "fly" and leap great distances. This metamorphosed into Santa's "eight" reindeer.
According to Norse history children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir to eat. Odin would reward the children who left treats for his horse by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy for the children.
This tradition survived in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands even many years after the adoption of Christianity. Later as a result of Christianity, the tradition was transferred to Saint Nicholas. And it was the adoption of St. Nicholas that we can still see the modern practice of hanging of stockings, to be filled with presents and treats, at the fireplaces of many homes.
But how did we get the name "Santa Claus?" Odin was referred to by many names in Skaldic poetry, some of which describe his appearance. These names are: Sidgrani, and Sidskegger (meaning "Long beard"). In the 17th century Dutchmen emigrated to North America bringing their tradition of SinterKlaas with them. In the new English speaking world the name was changed into Santa Claus.
It was the year 1930. Coca-Cola, the refreshing drink found it's sales went down in the Winter. A designer, working for Coca-Cola, was instructed to think up an idea to increase sales using the existing company colors, red and white. He remembered the "Dutch" Santa Claus with his white dress, red cloak and long white beard. As a result our modern day conception of Santa Claus exists.
May Odin's Blessings at Yule be many,