“You know mistletoe is important to Druids but do you know why people kiss under the mistletoe? It’s a Norse myth. Baldur the son of Odin was the most beloved by the other gods. So much that they wanted to protect him from all the dangers in the world. His mother, Frigg, took an oath from fire and water, metal, stone and every living thing, that they would never hurt Baldur. At a gathering, they tested him. Stones, arrows and flame were all hurled at him. Nothing worked. But there was one god that wasn’t so enamored of Baldur, the god of mischief, Loki. Loki discovered that Frigg had forgotten to ask mistletoe, a tiny, seemingly harmless plant and completely overlooked. Loki fashioned a dart out of mistletoe and it killed Baldur. Frigg was heartbroken. She decreed that mistletoe would never again be used as a weapon and that she would place a kiss on anyone who passed under it. So now we hang mistletoe underneath our door during the holidays so that we will never overlook it again.”
Jennifer – The Overlooked, episode 10 of Teen Wolf Season 3.
“Santa? Is Odin. With a bit of the Turkish Saint Nicholas plastered over top to make him more acceptable to Christianity.
Let’s wind this back a bit.
So. In Norse tradition, Odin rose with the wild hunt on Midwinter. Children would leave out offerings of hay or root vegetables in their shoes for Slepnir, Odin’s horse. In norse tradition, all gifts create an obligation that must be returned in kind, so if Odin found the offerings pleasing he would leave treats and sweets in return.
So. We have a magical bearded man riding through the sky on a winter feast day and leaving treats for children in footwear if they pleased him. Sound familiar? Yeah.
As for Slepnir, Odin’s mount? He has eight legs. So. Bearded man with powerful magic flying through the air on an eight-legged steed on a winter feast day and leaving treats for children in their footwear if they pleased him.
Enter Christianity. Now, the midwinter season is important to all cultures that live in cold climates. The passing of the worst of the hard times and the beginning of the longer days and the promise of the return of life and light and fertility is a powerful thing. There were Christian festival days around the same time as Midwinter was celebrated in many polytheistic faiths. Christians found that they couldn’t get people to stop celebrating the feast days they’d been celebrating for several thousand years, so opted instead to just absorb those traditions into their OWN midwinter festivals. It was a far easier and more effective way of convincing people to convert.
So. The tradition of Odin leaving gifts hung on, in a far different form. This was helped by the legend of Saint Nicholas, a Turkish man who inherited a large amount of wealth and who was known and beloved for his habit of slipping money to poor people via leaving it in their stockings as they were hung out to dry after wash day, or by dropping it down their chimneys. This was similar enough to the old Odin myth of leaving gifts in footwear to paste right over top of the older stories with relative ease. So, the man delivering gifts became not Odin, but St. Nick, who delivered gifts via stocking and chimney.
However, the idea of him flying through the sky, being associated with elves, possessing powerful magic, and the eight-legged steed stuck. (reindeer, incidentally, are an animal with a lot of symbol and power in Norse tales. Ullr, the god of the hunt, had ties to reindeer, and at some point the eight legged horse became eight reindeer.)
Incidentally the image of Santa as a chubby little jolly man didn’t come around until modern advertising began depicting him that way. Before that? A tall, strong man, usually with a staff (echoing Odin’s staff or spear).
So. There you have it. Santa, the jolly bearded old man of beloved childhood Christmas memories? If you ever wondered where he came from in a ‘Christian’ holiday, there’s your answer. He didn’t. He’s the amalgamation of an ancient Norse god and a Middle Eastern saint, filtered through the lens of pop culture.
Jim Butcher actually did this very well in the Dresden Files, where Odin makes several appearances, one wearing the mantle of Father Christmas.
Christianity never really managed to make the old gods vanish.
Rudolph and the story about him was written in 1939 by Robert L. May as a promotional character for Montgomery Ward. They gave away children’s coloring books every year, and had been buying them from other manufacturers. It was decided that if they could print their own with their own character that it would be cheaper. The poem/song was written at this time.
The character proved extremely popular, and has become a part of pop culture and an icon of the Christmas season. ”