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Many Faces of Santa

Updated on October 15, 2014

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Santa Claus

Santa is a jolly, chubby, white bearded man in the red suit. Over the centuries, customs from different parts of the World have come together and created the Santa Claus as we know him - the ageless, timeless, deathless man who gives out gifts on Christmas Eve. He is recognized around the world as symbolizes love, caring, and gift giving through out the Christmas season.

It has become a tradition to let children believe in the magical world that Santa Claus brings.

History of Santa Claus

1881 illustration by Thomas Nast who, with Clement Clarke Moore, helped to create the modern image of Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, aka Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or simply "Santa", is the figure who, in most of Western cultures as man bringing gifts on Christmas Eve.

The modern depiction of Santa Claus as a plump, jolly man wearing a red coat and trousers with white cuffs and collar, and black leather belt and boots, became popular in the United States in the 19th century.

One legend associated with Santa says that he lives in the far north, in a land of perpetual snow. The American version of Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, while Father Christmas is said to reside in Lapland. Other details include: that he is married and lives with Mrs. Claus; that he makes a list of children who have been bad or good.

Santa travels full of presents with his flying reindeer who pull his sleigh.

Early Christian origins

Saint Nicholas of Myra

A medieval fresco depicting St Nicholas from the Boyana Church, near Sofia, Bulgaria.

Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus. He was a 4th-century Greek 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.

Influence of Germanic paganism and folklore

Germanic god Odin

An 1886 depiction of the indigenous Germanic god Odin by Georg von Rosen

Numerous parallels have been drawn between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic peoples prior to their Christianization.

Odin was sometimes recorded, at the native Germanic holiday of Yule, as leading a great hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland, the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus's reindeer.

Children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy.

This practice in turn came to the United States through the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam prior to the British seizure in the 17th century, and evolved into the hanging of socks or stockings at the fireplace. In many regions of Austria and former Austro-Hungarian Italy (Friuli, city of Trieste) children are given sweets and gifts on Saint Nicholas's Day.

North American figure of Santa Claus

Sinterklaas (also called De Goedheiligman in Dutch and Saint Nicolas in French) is a traditional holiday figure in the Netherlands, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles and Belgium, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve of December 5 or, in Belgium, on the morning of December 6.

The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas and patron saint.

Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus.

The way that we see Santa Claus today.

Too Many Santas

Will the Real Santa Please Stand Up

Santa has many helpers. Spot the real Santa is the photos.

Just Hanging Out

Bike Rider Santas

Wild Riding Santas

Santas on Motorcycles

Poor Santa Claus

See the source of these gift products.
See the source of these gift products. | Source

Santa Got Ran Over By The Short Bus

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Do You Believe in Santa?

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    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 3 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      CherylsArt My pleasure sharing this with you. Glad that you had learned something.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      I hadn't heard about Odin before. Interesting article. : )

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 5 years ago

      Thanks for another great lens.

    • Sami4u LM profile image

      Sami4u LM 7 years ago


      Yes I believe in Santa :) Here I thought Santa was from Germany and just grew.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      This is such a fun lens! Even in the summer. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens! I lensrolled you to my Santa Claus in Advertising lens.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 8 years ago

      Welcome to the HAPPY HOLIDAY HUMOR group!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      Maybe I'm a little late or just a wee bit early but it's nice to see Santa's face in the spring too!

      Great lens!

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Nobody 8 years ago from UK

      Great lens. Maybe I should have read this a couple of months ago.

    • avocado47 profile image

      avocado47 9 years ago

      Fun lens! 5*

    • BarryKrost profile image

      BarryKrost 9 years ago

      Wonderful Photos make this a great lens. 5 stars.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 9 years ago

      I love those pictures of Santa!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Lots of great information and pictures. 5*****

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Lots of great information and pictures. 5*****

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 9 years ago

      Cool photos and very funny video! 5*

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 9 years ago from Canada

      Oh my gosh, what a HORRIBLY funny video! Great lens on a very popular guy!


    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • Webcodes LM profile image

      Webcodes LM 9 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Great pictures. A merry Christmas to you! 5*.

    • bgamall lm profile image

      bgamall lm 9 years ago

      Cool site, Sandy, Since this is history please feel free to submit it to my political group, as I take historical sites too! Besides the fact that I don't like Sarah Palin's politics, lol.

    • bgamall lm profile image

      bgamall lm 9 years ago

      Cool site, Sandy, Since this is history please feel free to submit it to my political group, as I take historical sites too! Besides the fact that I don't like Sarah Palin's politics, lol.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Great Santa pics! I guess riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer isn't exciting enough -- he needs roller coasters too! LOL!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      It's nice to see the history, including the similarities to Odin. This is why older Santa's are often riding a white horse rather than driving reindeer. Being a horse fan myself - I drew my coloring page of Santa on his white steed :D (Santa on white horse) Great lens! Good luck!

    • michelledurakis profile image

      michelledurakis 9 years ago

      Great lens love all the santas on the roller coaster ride. Got a laugh on that one.5*

    • Niki44 profile image

      Niki44 9 years ago

      Great lens with great photos and info! Nice job!

    • profile image

      saraht43 9 years ago

      Another great Holiday History lens. Very interesting and great pics too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Great Lens! Merry Christmas!

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 9 years ago from PA

      Wow! That's a lot of Santa's.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 9 years ago

      So many Santas! Great lens, perfect for the Holiday season.

    • profile image

      Mayflowerblood 9 years ago

      nice =] Santas cool!