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Santa Claus, Odin, and the Whole Stocking
- Other names for Santa Claus include: Father
Christmas, Kris Kringle, and Saint Nicholas.
- The main inspiration for Santa Claus is Saint
Nicholas of Myra.
- Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th century Greek
Christian bishop of Myra, now called Demre, in Lycia. Lycia is a
province of the Byzantine Anatolia, located in present-day Turkey.
- Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the
- Saint Nicholas was very religious from an early
age and devoted his entire life to Christianity.
Claus, Odin, and the Whole Stocking Thing:
- Many parallels have been drawn between Santa
Claus and Odin, chief god in Norse mythology. Odin was a major
god amongst Germanic people prior to their Christianization.
- On the native Germanic holiday of Yule, Odin was
said to lead a great hunting party in the sky. Odin had an
eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great
distances. Some believe this is where the idea of Santa's
reindeer was seeded.
- Children would place their boots, filled with
carrots, straw, or sugar, by the chimney for Sleipner to eat. In
return, Odin would reward those children by replacing Sleipnir's food
with candy and/or gifts. This practice was still continued in
Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands after they adopted
Christianity. It became associated with Saint Nicholas as a
result of the process of Christianization, and can still be seen in the
modern practice of hanging stockings on the chimney at some homes.
- The stocking practice came to the United States
through the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, prior to British seizure in
the 17th century. It evolved into the hanging of socks or
stockings at the fireplace.
- Many other pre-Christian Germanic winter
traditions have continued into modern Christmas celebrations such as:
Christmas ham, Christmas tree, Yule goat, and Yule logs.