The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.
The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale. bbc.co.uk
Through the ages and around the world, the man of eternal spirit has been known by many names. Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, Pere Noel, Grandfather Frost and the Jolly Old Elf are just some of those names. But today in America we recognize the man in the Red Suit and jolly appearance as Santa Claus.
Even in ancient times, cultures had personalities who would bring joy and gifts to deserving people. In Nordic countries, stories were told of Jolnir. The Celts had Cornunos and Germanic people had Vodin, who was pulled in his golden chariot by his giant steeds, Thunder and Lightening (Donder and Blitzen). jinglebelljunction.com
In Northern Europe, Winter festivities were once considered to be a Feast of the Dead, complete with ceremonies full of spirits, devils, and the haunting presence of the Norse god, Odin, and his night riders. One particularly durable Solstice festival was "Jol" (also known as "Jule" and pronounced "Yule"), a feast celebrated throughout Northern Europe and particularly in Scandinavia to honor Jolnir, another name for Odin. Since Odin was the god of intoxicating drink and ecstasy, as well as the god of death, Yule customs varied greatly from region to region. Thehistoryofchristmas.com
Numerous parallels have been drawn between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic peoples prior to their Christianization. Since many of these elements are unrelated to Christianity, there are theories regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions, surviving in various forms into modern depictions of Santa Claus.
Odin was sometimes recorded, at the native Germanic holiday of Yule, which was celebrated at the same time of year as Christmas now is, as leading a great hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland, the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus's reindeer. Further, Odin was referred to by many names in Skaldic poetry, some of which describe his appearance or functions. These include Síðgrani, Síðskeggr, Langbarðr, (all meaning "long beard") and Jólnir ("Yule figure").
According to some traditions, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin Wiki
Yule, the winter solstice holiday, can still be seen in many of our modern Christmas practices today. But we are interested in one such tradition, the "face" of this time of year. Odin was the harbinger of the spirit of Yule, one of his names is Jölnir (Yule bringer) as Santa Claus is for children on Christmas Eve.
There are many similarities between these characteristic figures. Their "look" may be one of the most glaring. Both Odin and Saint Nicholas are known for their beards, the Norse god even has many names in reference to his facial hair. Each wears a hat and carries a spear/staff, which has become iconic of both. They have servants who carry bags to catch up naughty children. Both Odin and Saint Nicholas are known for riding white horses which fly through the air (although Sleipnir, Odin's mount is more commonly depicted as grey).
Now, as some may know Odin was the god of wisdom, magic, poetry, prophesy, war, battle and victory. He is said to have created the very runes the Norse used for writing. The Zwarte Pieten give children letters made out of candy which is reminiscent of Odin's runes. As god of arts and poetry, he'd likely appreciate the children singing songs and making poems during Saint Nicholas' celebration.
Also, according to Phyllis Siefker, children would place their boots which were filled with carrots, straw or sugar near the chimney for Sleipnir to eat. Odin showed his appreciation for this simple act by replacing his horse’s food with gifts or candy.
We can see some of Odin's influence in today's Santa as well. As some may know, during Yule Odin leads the Wild Hunt. According to the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, he flies through the sky with the help of his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir who could leap great distances. Does this not bring childhood memories of Santa flying through the sky with his eight reindeer? AncientWorlds.net
Originally posted by Mimir
reply to post by Merriman Weir
I agree with you that comparing santas 8 reindeers with Sleipnir is a stretch, but think about it. There is 8 reindeers, Sleipnir got 8 legs. Only one of the reindeer (Rudolph got a rednose), Sleipnir is often portraid as a white steed (albinos got red'ish noses)....I know still a bit far off, but who knows how the original stories has been twisted. That brings me back to my original problem ,there is almost no written texts documenting our traditions, most is from the edda's, where I can find atleast 2 references to Jölnir (master of Yule/Odin).
You might be able to find other refferences to Jolnir in the Edda's, but im not aware of such. And i have to repeat myself, the Eddas was written hundreds if not thousands of years after these beliefs were at their highest.
Odin was a high shaman, so I dont see any conflicts in the winter solestice also being a shamanistic ritual.
The chocolate/runes...dunno, written language wasent really used back then and may have been seen as magical so even if its a far stretch it may not be totally off.
And yes you can find similarities to other systems of beliefs too, like the Indian firegod Agni that was wearing red clothings and demanded sacrifices at winter solestice. It is also easy to keep asking questions that cant be answered simply because there is no written records and much will be guessing and probing. If you feel like you can prove Santa myths are older than Odin feel free to educate me.
What? I'm not sure what you're saying here. A couple of points: written language across Europe predates runic writing.
If anyone was going to give children chocolate letters, it would be Heimdallr as he was was the one that gave mankind runes/writing.
The point you've presented here doesn't make sense either within the Black Peter tradition, northern lore, or even the history of writing within Europe.
One thing I didn't mention earlier is the Odin Wheel thing. For years I've seen these linked to Woden but I've never really seen any real basis or proof of it, the same thing seems to get repeated, uncritically, again and again - and I'd really like to see some real academic work on it.
There the sun is actually a very attractive young woman (who has an equally attractive brother called 'Moon'). In a fit of jealousy, the Aesir place the siblings in the sky where they become what we now see as the sun and the moon.
Originally posted by Mimir
reply to post by Merriman Weir
Again i dont deny there is some holes in the theory.
Yes Thors goat-chariot would fit better as santa's sleigh, but I dont think Yule is about Thor. One Myth says Odin has the magic Goat (Heidrun) that every day fills a pitcher with the poetic mead, that is more likely your "goat-link".
The note about shamanism, was an answer to Unity_99, but i can expand a little and add that some viking groups used mushrooms before berzerkergang, which was violent pillaging/looting (war). Since Odin both is a god of war and a shaman maybe this helps explaining the mushroom-shaman.
But it was not used in Scandinavia and i doubt it was widespread in the germanic and slavic tribes too.
Possible, but Odin discovered and shared the knowledge about the runes among the gods.
Its a suggestion not a point. Black Piet may just as well be a "new invention", i dont know.
That is because there is no surviving evidence, but it is still widely accepted.
I never claimed Odin is the sun, I claimed he is behind the original story that spawned the santa myths.
True, and I did not say Odin was responsible for the sun's movement all I do is point out that the suncross is one of the symbols of Odin.
They celebrated Yule not Odin at the winter solestice. That Santa may be Odin is another matter,
you are mixing the two in an attemp to debunk something that cant be proven or disaproven as far as i see it.
You could claim that without historical evidence theres no proff making it a hoax, but in that case you can sack all religions of all times as stories for children.