You heard me! Santa has been heavily influenced by traditions surrounding Odin, the Norse god of the Norse gods, a.k.a. the Allfather. As I write this, I imagine many readers with a cock-eyed expression indicating a skepticism that the two seemingly different beard-laden individuals could have much in common aside from their facial hair. The truth is, there can be little doubt that Odin’s lore has factored into Santa as we know him today.
Here’s the down and dirty on the comparisons.
- Santa Clause
- Flies around in December for Christmas to bring gifts to good children.
- Has eight reindeer pulling his sleigh.
- Is the most visually iconic figure of Christmas, symbolizing giving, joy, and peace.
- Before Coca-Cola popularized the jolly, jiggly Santa we all know today, Santa was depicted thin as often as chubby, and usually donned brown, blue, or red robes.
- Has elves who make toys for children.
- Sometimes referred to as Father Christmas.
- Odin the Allfather
- Flew around in December for Yuletide to head off the Wild Hunt. He knew who had been bad and good and hunted down or abducted those who deserved it.
- Had an eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, that pulled his sleigh.
- Was the most iconic figure of Yuletide, a holiday that celebrated hospitality, feasting, and gift-giving.
- Is often depicted wearing either blue or brown robes.
- Elves and dwarves (Christmas elves seem to be an amalgamation of the two) originate from Norse Mythology and are known as amazing creators.
- Was referred to as Yule Father.
Though it’s quite obvious that Santa has influence from Odin, we can’t ignore some of the other obvious influences such as Saint Nicholas of Myra and the Dutch Sinterklaas.
A few other traditions that Christmas has borrowed from Norse tradition include tree decoration, mistletoe, and wreaths.
Information from this post was gathered from both my personal interest in the subject and this article. The article contains more details with comparisons between the two as well as many references to more resources on the subjects of Odin, Santa Claus, and Norse Mythology.