“Ho- Ho – Ho…” It’s that time of year when we are all waiting to hear the clickity-clack of reindeer hooves up on the rooftop. But, as you wait for Santa to shimmy down your chimney, here are some weird — some even creepy — things you may not know about “Old St. Nick.”
- His reindeer were derived from immortal nightmarish warhorses
Much of what we know of Santa, and the traditions of modern Christmas, won’t be found anywhere in the Bible. In fact, most of the things we relate to Christmas, including Santa, are really derived from the winter solstice celebration known as “Yule” that was practiced before Christianity was even a thought. Yule was celebrated by the Slavic and Germanic peoples, who worshiped the Norse Gods. During the time of Yule, Odin, the “All-Father” was said to streak across the heavens in a chariot drawn by a fierce eight-legged war horse. Kids would leave out food for Odin’s flying, eight-legged horse named Sleipnir, and Odin would put candy and treats in place of the food. If that sounds familiar, it should, because as the traditions of Yule merged with those of Christmas, Odin and his eight-legged war horse, became “Santa and his eight reindeer.”
Even in the earliest incarnations of Santa, he was said to deliver his toys either on a flying horse, or in a carriage drawn by flying horses. It wasn’t until Clement Moore’s 1822 poem, “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” — better known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” that the eight flying reindeer were first mentioned.
- He is said to have raised children from the dead
There are many legends surrounding “St. Nicholas,” an actual Turkish Saint, upon whom Santa is based. In one of his more creepy feats, he is said to have raised three children from the dead, who had be killed, butchered, and about to be sold by an unscrupulous butcher as ham. As the story goes, St. Nicholas — who happened to be wandering by — immediately saw that the meat was not ham, and resurrected the three children.
- A goat originally did his job
Before the whole St. Nicholas/Odin/Santa Claus myth made its way through Europe, the Scandinavian countries of the world were already dealing with a magical being called the Yule Goat, who spent its time wandering around making sure families had completed their Yule celebration preparations, and demanding gifts from them. Eventually, thanks to the legends of winter gift-givers around Europe, the Yule Goat started bringing presents to families in the 19th century, only to be later laid off around 1900 and replaced by “Santa Claus.”
- He did not always have a big round belly
In 1809, an author named Washington Irving helped to shape Santa’s image in his book “Knickerbocker’s History of New York.” In the novel, he described St. Nicholas as a “slim figure flying over rooftops in a wagon delivering presents to good children and switches to the bad.”
- There is something kind of odd about his reindeer
Another thing a little odd about the reindeer (beside their ability to fly and that whole Viking War Horse thing) is they seem to have some gender issues. The names of Santa’s reindeer are all male. But male reindeer shed their antlers in the winter, and Santa’s reindeer are never pictured without antlers when they’re making their Christmas rounds. So either they’re actually female reindeer with male names, or Santa has some gender issues. Or, worse yet, they are male reindeer who have been castrated, which prevents them from losing their antlers, and Santa has some other deeply concerning issues.
- We have Coca-Cola to thank for his red and white outfit
What are the two colors most associated with Santa? Red and white of course! And what other famous icon is also red and white? A can of Coca-Cola! That is no coincidence! The only reason Santa wears red and white is because of the Coca-Cola Company. Prior to 1931, Santa could be seen depicted wearing any color he liked — blue, green, brown, mauve, even black! However, in 1931, Coca-Cola put out a massive ad campaign that featured Santa in Coke’s red and white colors, and the damn thing was so prevalent that it effectively locked Santa’s fashion – and much of his jolly bearded look — done from that point on.
- He is based on a real person
While the figure we know today as “Santa Claus” is clearly a fictional character, his origins were based on a real person. There actually was a St. Nicholas. He was a monk, who lived about 280 A.D., from an area in what today would be Turkey. Saint Nicholas traveled the countryside to assist the poor and sick. One story claims he even used his wealth to provide a dowry for three impoverished sisters, saving them from being sold by their father. He became known as a protector of children and sailors, and by the Renaissance, he was among the most popular saints in Europe.
What do you think of these odd facts about Santa, are there some Santa legends you know that we may have left out? Reply in the comments below.