ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Will the Real Santa Claus Please Stand Up?

Updated on December 6, 2012

The Many Faces of Santa

There are as many versions of Santa Claus as there are cultures that celebrate him. Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Odin the Wanderer, Jule Nisse, Jouluppukki, to name a few. What may surprise you is that Santa Claus has not always been a jolly ole elf, or even human. In fact, he has been depicted as an evil gnome as well as a goat.

Okay, now we are getting freaky...but seriously, I am not making this up. Read on to learn more about this intriguing, yet almost universal, phenomenon that embodies the celebration of the winter solstice, Christmas, and Yuletide season.
Gift Certificates/Cards

Papa Noel Celebrates Christmas New Orleans Style. Photo courtesy of David Richmond and

Papa Noel Celebrates Christmas New Orleans Style. Photo courtesy of David Richmond and
Papa Noel Celebrates Christmas New Orleans Style. Photo courtesy of David Richmond and

The Many Names of Santa Claus

To learn more about each of these folkloric figures similar to Santa Clauses, please visit my website Santa Claus.

  1. Santa Claus: The Americanized version.
  2. Father Christmas: British in origin.
  3. Sir Christmas: Predates Father Christmas in the United Kingdom.
  4. Lord Christmas: Predates Father Christmas in United Kingdom.
  5. Old Father Christmas: You guessed it...predates Father Christmas in United Kingdom.
  6. Saint Nicholas of Myra: Primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus.
  7. Odin the Wanderer: Germanic in origin; a pagan god that rode an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could apparently fly or leap great distances. I want a horse like that :)
  8. Jouluppukki: Finnish name for Santa Claus. Literally translated as Yule Goat, this was an ugly creature that frightened children. Now they are available as cute little straw figures for the unknowing.
  9. Sinterklaas: The Dutch version of Santa Claus (or maybe the other way around).
  10. Pagan Goblin: Paranoid Christian delusion.
  11. Jule Nissen: Norwegian in origin. Leave a bowl of porridge outside for him and it will make him very happy.
  12. Ghost of Christmas Present: The spirit of Christmas as depicted by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol.
  13. Jezšek: translates as Baby Jesus, who in the Czech tradition is the one who delivers presents.
  14. Papa Noel: Papa Noel is the New Orleans Santa Claus, and, like New Orleans, a fog of mystery and myth surrounds him. He doesn't own a sleigh (it would sink in the bayou) and he has no need of reindeer (living on Cajun food, they'd be too full to fly). Instead he moves about in a pirogue, a narrow, flat-bottomed boat that can penetrate the deepest swamp. Some say he has 8 fat alligators and a red-nosed loup garou to pull his pirogue. Others say no, the alligators are just close friends, the loup garou is a distant cousin, and it's Papa Noel who has the red nose.
  15. Jlasveinarnir (Yule Lads):In Icelandic folklore, Jlasveinarnir or Yule Lads, or Yulemen, are characters who have become the modern day (almost) equivalent of Santa Claus. Their number has varied throughout the ages, but currently there are considered to be thirteen.
  16. Pre Noel: Pre Nol is the French equivalent of the British Father Christmas and the American Santa Claus.
  17. Le Pre Fouettard: A sinister figure dressed in black who accompanies Saint Nicolas and whips children who have behaved badly.
  18. Krampus: The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine region the Krampus is represented by an incubus in company of St Nicholas.

St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas

To Honor St. Nicholas and Papa Noel

For folks who like to work with Saints, St Nicholas/Papa Noel is a good one for asking for intercession on behalf of the less fortunate and the needy. He may also be petitioned for making wishes. As a work of charity, consider the following activity:

Petition St. Nicholas on Behalf of the Less Fortunate

The traditional way of petitioning saints in the New Orleans Hoodoo tradition is to set up a small altar that is higher than usual, such as on a mantle. This positioning represents the fact that saints are intermediaries between people and the Creator, higher than us and lower than God. Procure a seven day glass encased candle with an image of St. Nicholas on it. Anoint the candle with St. Nicholas Oil. Place the candle on a surface that is at level with your head or higher. Place a glass of Holy water next to the candle. Knock three times on the altar in front of the image 3 times and call out his name: "St. Nicholas! St Nicholas! St. Nicholas! Patron to children and the less fortunate, Bringer of gifts, You are a glorious servant of God the father and filled with the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Most High, I ask for your intercession for (state your petition)." Offer St. Nicholas a loaf of wheat bread for his help and most importantly, give someone a gift who would appreciate it and who can't afford something for themselves. Thank him publicly by taking out an ad in the newspaper or giving thanks for his assistance on a blog or forum.

St. Nicolas Candles and oils are available through Crossroads Mojo and Planet Voodoo.

Santa Claus YouTube vids

The American Santa Claus

Santa Claus is said to be a fictional folklore figure who is brings gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or on his feast day, December 6.

The main idea about Santa Claus seemed to become mainstay after the publication of the poem A Night Before Christmas in 1823. In this poem he is depicted as a round individual with eight tiny reindeer.

The image of Santa Claus as a benevolent character became reinforced with its association with charity and philanthropy, particularly organizations such as the Salvation Army. Volunteers dressed as Santa Claus typically became part of fund raising drives to aid needy families at Christmas time.

This photonegative was taken by a Chicago Daily News photographer in 1902. Photo available through the Library of Congress's American Memory project via the Chicago Historical Society.

I don't know about you, but this picture is a bit eepycray for my tastes. On the other hand, he would make a great face for a voodoo doll, wouldn't he?

Great Santa Stuff on Amazon

Odin the Wanderer

Numerous parallels have been drawn surrounding the figure of Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic Peoples prior to their Christianization. Odin was described as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus' reindeer.

Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus. He was a 4th century Christian bishop of Myra in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Germany he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. The relics of St. Nicholas were transported to Bari in southern Italy by some enterprising Italian merchants; a basilica was constructed in 1087 to house them and the area became a pilgrimage site for the devout. Saint Nicholas became claimed as a patron saint of many diverse groups, from archers and children to pawnbrokers and prostitutes. He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Moscow.

Santa, the Son of a Troll?

In Icelandic folklore, jlasveinarnir or Yule Lads, or Yulemen, are characters who have become the modern day (almost) equivalent of Santa Claus. Their number has varied throughout the ages, but currently there are considered to be thirteen.

The Yule Lads were originally portrayed as being mischievous, or even criminal, pranksters that would steal from and harass the population (at the time mostly rural farmers). They all had descriptive names that conveyed their modus operandi. Take these names, for example: Meat Snatcher (Kjtkrkur), Skyr Gobbler (Skyrgmur), Candle Beggar (Kertasnkir), Sheep-fold Sneaker (Stekkjarstaur), Ladle Licker (vrusleikir), Pot Scraper (Pottaskefill), Bowl Licker (Askasleikir), Door Slammer (Huraskellir), Sausage Snatcher (Bjgnakrkir), Window Peeper (Gluggaggir), Doorway Sniffer (Gttaefur).

The Yule Lads are traditionally said to be the sons of the mountain-dwelling trolls Grla and Leppali. In modern times the Yule Lads have taken on a more benevolent role as they slowly merge with Santa Claus. In some cases they have taken up his costume, and nowadays little children in Iceland place their shoes in the window for thirteen days prior to Christmas, and each night a little gift is left in the shoe from the Yule Lad that came down from the mountains that night. If the children are naughty, however, they get a potato instead of a gift.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, the modern Santa Claus appeared on the scene, and Icelanders became aware of the Scandinavian Julenisser, gnome-like creatures who were kind to children. The Yule lads began to develop into a mixture of Julenisser, Yule lads and Santa Claus. The modern Yule lads are funny old men with child-like minds and behavior. They have retained some of their mischievous nature, although these days they have learned that they will usually get what they want if they only ask for it.


Jule Nisser

A Christmas Card showing a typical Scandinavian "Nisse", preparing his Yule porridge. Printed in Denmark and used in Iceland, Christmas 1915.

Just when you thought there were no other versions of our beloved jolly ole elf, along comes Father Frost, or Ded Moroz as he is called in the culture of eastern Slavs.

Ded Moroz brings presents to children. However, unlike the clandestine ways of Santa Claus, he often brings them in person, at the celebrations of the New Year. The "in-person" gifts only occur at big organized celebrations, where the gifts can be "standardized." The clandestine operations of placing the gifts under the New Year tree still occur while the children are young. Ded Moroz is accompanied by Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), his granddaughter.

The traditional appearance of Ded Moroz resembles Santa Claus, with his heel-long fur coat, semi-round fur hat, white high boots, and long white beard. Unlike Santa Claus, however, he walks with a long magical staff, does not say "Ho, ho, ho," and drives a three-horse drawn sled as opposed to eight tiny reindeer.

Companions of Father Christmas

The Companions of Saint Nicholas (or Father Christmas) are a group of closely related figures who accompany St. Nicholas in many European traditions. The tradition is particularly strong amongst the Germanic peoples, with some regional expression in the U.S. (largely from European ethnic groups).

The most recognized companions are as follows:

*Knecht Ruprecht, which translates as Farmhand Ruprecht or Servant Ruprecht

*Krampus (Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary [spelled Krampusz])

*Klaubauf (Bavaria)

*Bartel (Styria)

*Pelzebock, Pelznickel

*Belzeniggl, Belsnickel (Pennsylvania)

*Schmutzli (Switzerland)

*Rumpelklas, Bellzebub, Hans Muff, Drapp or Buzebergt (Augsburg)

*Hanstrapp (Alsace, East of France) and

*Le Pre Fouettard (Northern France)

In the Czech Republic, St. Nicholas or Svat Mikulš is accompanied by the Cert (Devil) and Andel (Angel). These servants are often associated with, but are distinct from Saint Nicholas' helpers in the Netherlands and Flanders (called Zwarte Piet, meaning Black Pete(r) in English).

The Companions travel with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with them a rod (sometimes a stick and in modern times often a broom) and a sack. They are sometimes dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair. In many contemporary portrayals the companions look like dark, sinister, or rustic versions of Nicholas himself, with a similar costume but with a darker color scheme.

Pictured is Zwart Piet (Black Pete) who, according to the folklore and legends of the Netherlands and Flanders, is a companion of Sinterklaas whose yearly feast in the Netherlands is on the evening of 5 December(Sinterklaas-avond, i.e. St. Nicolas Eve) and 6 December in Flanders, when they distribute presents to all good children.

The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine region the Krampus is represented by an incubus in company of St Nicholas. Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December and particularly in the evening of December 5 and roam the streets frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas, a slight spanking with a birch stick, especially of young females by the Krampus, is part of tradition.

The present day Krampus costume consists of red wooden masks or Larve, black sheep's skin and horns. Considerable effort goes into the manufacture of the hand-crafted masks, as many younger adults in rural communities engage competitively in the Krampus events.

The word Perchten refers to the female masks representing the entourage of Frau Perchta or Pehta baba as is known in Slovenia. Frau Perchta is believed to be an ancient goddess, perhaps with a connection to the nordic goddess Freyja. Traditionally, the masks were displayed in processions during the last week of December and first week of January, and particularly on January 6th. The costume consists of a brown wooden mask and brown or white sheep's skin. In recent times Krampus and Perchten have increasingly been displayed in a single event, leading to a loss of distinction of the two. Perchten are associated with midwinter and the embodiment of fate and the souls of the dead. The name originates from the German word "peraht", or "brilliant", meant as a warning against the sin of vanity.

Reader Feedback

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      4 years ago

      i love this, like pizza!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great Post!!I wrote this poem and made this machinima film to celebrate Odins part in Christmas/Yuletide

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is a nice lens, but I did not see anything about "the Holly King".

    • MSBeltran1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice lens... I have lensrolled you to my Yule page; very informative.

    • religions7 profile image


      10 years ago

      Lovely. As a Dutch person though I can tell you it's 'Zwarte Piet' (Black Pete), not zwarete piete.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      How interesting!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow! I had no idea Santa had so many names!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)