Merry Christmas

Real Clear Science highlighted an interesting article from a few years ago on the evolution of Santa Claus: Will the Real Santa Claus Please Stand Up?

We always think of Santa Claus as an incredibly old man—positively ancient—but the fact is, he’s exactly 150-years-old, born in 1863. Indeed, we might be thinking of Santa’s predecessor St. Nicholas, who is far older, believed to have been a Turkish Greek bishop in the 300s. But the first European winter gift-bringer is even more of a geezer, going back to ancient Germanic paganism and the Norse god Odin. When he wandered the earth, the deity disguised himself as a bearded old man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and cloak and carrying a traveler’s staff. He looked a lot like Gandalf the Gray in “Lord of the Rings.”

The gift-bringer showed up during the 12-day winter festival known as Yule, where it was a tradition to burn a whole tree, from bottom up. (This evolved into the smaller “Yule log” we know today.) Children would leave hay in their shoes for Odin’s eight-legged horse and find it replaced with treats the next day. As Europe became Christianized, these beliefs were absorbed into the Christian faith, and St. Nicholas, celebrated on December 6, was bestowed with the gift-bringer mythology.

And related to Odin’s eight-legged horse:

via xkcd

Whatever this weekend means for you, I hope you and those you care for are safe and having a Happy Holiday, free of eight legged horses.  (Unless of course an eight legged horse is what you want for Christmas.)

Merry Christmas to all my online friends!

20 thoughts on “Merry Christmas

  1. Of course, a lot of this stuff about Christmas is apocryphal, Mike. Take, for example, the naming of the baby. The facts are these: One of the wise men stepped on a rake in the stable, the handle smiting him on the head and so he called out in his distress, “Jesus Christ!”, to which Mary responded, “That’s a nice name – we were going to call him Raymond.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Happy Christmas to you too!
    You might’ve seen something about the Krampus in Germany and German-speaking parts of Switzerland? He was the ‘gift-giver’ for the bad kids! Disturbing as hell I tell ya!
    Wishing you all the best to you and yours 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. For the better I’m pretty sure. But then there’s the bible and all the fear of hell many pastors instill in chidren from a young age. That hasn’t changed since the church invented hell a few centuries ago…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I had heard about the other influences like Odin, but didn’t realize he had loomed as large as he did in the development of the mythology. After reading it, it feels more like St Nicholas got added to Odin than the other way around.

      Liked by 1 person

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