Christmas is approaching, which means soon Santa will be coming to our homes with a bagfull of presents. We know that on December 24 Santa Claus will have to do the impossible and cross the entire world from Finland to Australia. Each Nordic country claims Santa resides within their territory. People in Norway believe that he lives in Drøbak. Santa from Drøbak receives over 20.000 letters every year from all over the world. Sweden accommodates Santa in the town of Mora, which has a theme park named Tomteland. In Finland Santa lives near Rovaniemi, in Korvatunturi. The area has 2 theme parks, Santa Claus Village and Santa Park which every winter attract massive amount of tourists from all over the world.
But where does Santa initially come from? If we look 2 thousand years back we realize that Christian Santa has pagan roots. During the christianization in Europe many pagan Gods were transformed into more Christian-friendly characters. Santa Claus, as we know him in his red and white beard, was in fact a Christian reincarnation of the Germanic god Odin. Odin, the ruler of Asgard, is one of the major gods in Germanic mythology. He was usually depicted as a white-bearded man with magical powers. The winter solstice, also known as Yule, was a time when Odin led a hunting party, known as the Wild Hunt, in the sky with an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. The 13th century Poetic Edda said the Sleipnir could spring a long way – a trait reindeer possess. Children would leave their boots by the chimney filled with carrots and hay to feed the mythical horse. Legend has it that whenever Odin flew by he would leave gifts by their boots.
Yule was an indigenous midwinter festival around two months in length, celebrated between what is now mid-November and early January. Finnish name of Santa is “Joulupukki” which literally means “Christmas goat” or “Yule Goat” in Finish. That makes one to consider the modern Santa Claus fairly satanic as well because his last name here is Bock, he has red clothes and a beard.
Does Santa have a dark side? In some areas, yes. In Alpine folklore a dark, hairy, horned beast called Krampus was said to walk in the house and take the Christmas away. The Krampus could be heard in the night by the sound of his echoing cloven hooves and his rattling iron chains. The Krampus swat children with birch branches, and carry them off in his sharp claws up until 1934. In the aftermath of Austrian Civil War in 1934, the Krampus character was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under the Fatherland’s Front and the Austrian Christian Social Party. However in Finland similar “Evil Santa” character, Nuuttipukki – the knut goat – is still living at areas of Southwest Finland and Ostrobothnia. Finnish Nuuttipukki wears an inverted fur jacket, a leather or birchbark mask, and horns. Unlike Santa Claus, Nuuttipukki was a scary character who came to take “naughty” children. The men dressed as Nuuttipukki wandered from house to house, came in, and typically demanded food and leftover alcoholic drinks.
Nevertheless traditional Santa will embark on his reindeers very soon. Follow the “real” Santa journey here: Santa Tracker