The origins of Santa Claus, the personification of Christmas

The elves at the North Pole are finishing off the final orders for Christmas, preparing to pack Santa Claus’s sleigh.

It is just a matter of time and Santa will be harnessing his reindeer, before dashing around the globe. Delivering gifts to all the good boys and girls. But who is Santa Claus? A magical man who also goes by the name of Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle.

Santa, Newcastillian

Santa Claus as we know him today comes from traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop and gift giver of Myra and the British figure of Father Christmas who is the personification of the Christmas season.

Very little is known about the historical Saint Nicholas. The earliest accounts of his life were written centuries after his death. Because of this, many elaborate legends surround him. He is said to have been born in Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor to wealthy Christian parents.

In one of the earliest and most famous incidents from his life, he apparently rescued three girls from prostitution by dropping a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights, so their father could pay a dowry for each of them.

There are several other stories revolving around him, some of which involves him giving gifts to children.

Saint Nicholas is also the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

While Saint Nicholas is known for his love of children, Father Christmas initially never interacted with them. In fact, until Victorian times, he was concerned with adult feasting and merry-making. However, as Victorian Christmases evolved, becoming more child-centric, Father Christmas became a bearer of gifts.

But do you know that jolly old Santa has attributes of another individual? A rather powerful and ancient figure.

It is believed Santa Claus also absorbed elements of the Germanic God Wodan or as we now know him, Odin.

Odin is associated with pagan midwinter event of Yule and leads the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.

But how can a pagan god be associated with Christmas?

The two actually have a lot of similarities.

Santa, Newcastillian

Odin also magically visits homes at night during the Yule season, leaving gifts for good children. In fact, every year during Yule, Norse children would leave their boots stuffed with straw by the fireplace. When they awoke in the morning, they would find that Odin had left sweets and presents in place of the straw.

Another similarity is that where Father Christmas has elves working for him, Odin has dwarves and elves.

But irrespective of where Santa Claus hails from, no Christmas is complete without the jolly man embarking on his magical journey to deliver gifts while interacting with children at malls and shops.

Have a Merry Christmas and be sure to be on the lookout for Santa.

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