Is it Santa? Is it Odin? The Alternative GiftbringerBy Chiara
with less than two months till Christmas, today we want to talk a bit about the Viking god Odin, which some of you will recognise from our T-Shirts, and how he might actually be related to the modern Santa Claus!
Christmas and Vikings might not seem to have an immediate relation, but actually many Christmas traditions have their origins in the old Norse and Germanic cultures.
You might already know that Christmas has its roots in the pagan celebration of Yule, the Midwinter Festival, celebrating the Winter Solstice. Traditions such as adorning the house with evergreens, decorating a tree, or the Yule-log all derived from the Nordic Yule fest.
But did you know that even the figure of Santa Claus has been strongly influenced by Viking culture? Long before the figure of the modern Santa Claus became the bringer of gifts, Vikings had their own Father Christmas: the ruler of the gods, Odin.
According to Norse mythology, Odin would lead the Wild Hunt across the world during the midwinter period, riding on his flying, eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Children would leave their boots by the fireplace, filled with straw and carrots for Sleipnir, and Odin would fill their boots with gifts in return. Over the centuries this has changed to leaving cookies and hanging stockings from the mantelpiece, but the traditions survived.
Odin didn’t have have a sled with reindeer, but these are actually a pretty new appearance anyway: before the 19th century, St Nicholas, the Christian figure behind modern Santa, would mostly be portrayed as riding a horse instead. And what better way to travel over the world than a flying horse like Sleipnir!
Physical traits of Santa Claus also point towards Odin: he was commonly portrayed as an old, cloaked man with a long, white beard. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
So if you want to honour an alternative “Santa” this festive season, why not get one of our Odin T-shirts or send an Odin Greetings Card? And we might show you something new for the end of Odin's week, so keep tuned!
And check out Eric W. Brown's page for an amusing take on Odin and Santa: Irrefutable Proof that Santa is Odin.