What is the link between Odin and Santa Claus? How does Santa trace his origins to the Norse god?

  • 2
    I didn't down vote nor VTC, but I think this question could have been better is que question provided a reference to that link between Odin-wotan and Santa Claus. It is not obvious to everyone that there is one, and claiming so should be backed up with some references.
    – Kreann
    May 5, 2015 at 13:25

2 Answers 2


Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch festival figure St Nicholas, or Sinterklaas.

The story is that St Nicholas is a Roman Catholic bishop who rides over the rooftop on a white horse at night, accompanied by his black manservant. While the children are asleep they bring presents, throwing them through the chimney, or the manservant climbing down the chimney to deliver the presents.

The characters have several influences, but the oldest version of St Nicholas seems to be Wodan. With the christianisation of Europe, festivals were changed to better fit the christian mythology. Witness how the midwinter festivals became Christmas and spring festivals became Easter the latter name itself deriving from Ishtar.

The manservant goes back to Wodans ravens, the white horse traces its origin to Sleipnir. There have been considerable influences over the ages, but this seems to be the oldest origin.

  • 6
    Pretty sure Easter is generally believed to take it's name from Ēostre.
    – femtoRgon
    Jan 25, 2016 at 16:58
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    Ishtar/Easter has become something of a legend online these days. You're absolutely right, though, there is no relationship between Ishtar and Easter.
    – cmw
    Feb 9, 2016 at 13:18

One of the original holidays that was merged together to create the modern Christmas is Yule (in Scandinavian languages, Christmas is still called "jul" or "jól"); this was apparently celebrated around midwinter; the term to "drink yule" appears in the poem Hrafnsm%C3%A1l dated to the 10th century, but it is unclear exactly what the celebrations would have entailed. "Yule" also appears sometimes as a general term for "feast".

Anyway, Odin (this is the name mostly used when speaking of him as he appears in norse sources; Wodin is the name used on the continent) was known by a whole bunch of names, and among those, two were "Jólfaðr" ('Yule father') and "Jólnir" ('Yule figure').

This is about as far the primary sources will take you. If you want to speculate, you can note things like Odin having a long white beard, or that his horse could travel through air. You could also note that another of his bynames were "Óski", 'God of Wishes, Wished For', but well, that's all there really is: a clear link to Christmas, but very little to suggest that he has actually has an influence on Santa Claus.

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