Santa has a giant sleigh, pulled by eight reindeer, which make sense because Santa lives within the Article Circle and reindeer are artic animals. (We’re not counting Rudolph because he’s a modern-era addition). He comws down chimneys and delivers presets to well-behaved children, who often leave him cookies and milk and put out food for his reindeer.
Saint Nicholas was a Bishop in what is now Turkey in the 4th century. Saint Nicholas is known for saving poor girls from a life of prostitution and performing a number of miracles on his feast day of December 6th. Having a feast day so close to the historically inaccurate celebration of a deity’s birth is the reason why Saint Nicholas often is associated with Santa. But, Middle Eastern locale, no artic animals, no 8, no traveling, no food/gifts exchanged.
Odin, on the Wild Hunt, searching for warrior souls to build his army and prepare for the longest night of the year when Heimdall may blow his horn signalling the beginning of the end, would ride on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Along his travels, children would fill their shoes with food for Sleipnir and leave them by the chimney. Odin would enter the home through the chimney and take the food. As a gesture of gratitude for their hospitality, Odin would leave gifts in the shoes for the children who helped nourish his horse and allow him to complete his hunt. Odin is also portrayed as an old man with a long white beard. His home base on Midguard is within the Article Circle. Eight. Chimneys. Beard.
Just as the days of the week are based on Nordic deities, one of the most recognizable figures in western culture can be traced back to Norse roots.
Here’s a nifty infographic to explain it all!
…I wonder if Scandinavian parents would buy/make gifts for children and leave them in the boots the way Western parents play Santa for their kids.