Friday, 6 December 2019

1912.06 WHO IS FATHER CHRISTMAS?

It's a strange time. It's the festive season but we've got a general election going on which is distracting everyone from the fun that is supposed to be this time of year. But I want to take a moment to leave the crap to one side and look at something that really interests me (and captures the season).

Something about me that I haven't spoken about much in this arena is my interest in Norse culture and mythology. It's been a gradual thing over the last 7 years. It's because of this I found myself reading up on Yule. I like to embrace the traditions of my ancestors and fuse them into the modern world. It turns out if you strip out the Christianity you are left with the pagan festival of Yule. It's common knowledge that many pagan festivals were just pasted over with Christian ones. 

But what about the fat bloke with the beard? St. Nicholas you say? Well, as with many legendary figures there are multiple sources for the story. The thing about St. Nick was that he didn't have the assistance of the elves or the ability to fly. So what if I was to say that Mr Claus is also Odin, the All-father? Odin was know to take many forms but his favourite was that of a white bearded old traveller. Before the Victorians and Coca-Cola got hold of the image, Father Christmas was described as a tall gaunt man wearing a cloak and a hat or hood who rode a horse., a very similar image to a god known as the Yule father. 

Odin is purported to cross the skies during the 12 nights of Yule, rewarding the good and punishing the bad . This was known as the 'Great Winter Hunt'. He raced across the skies leading his gang of gods, elves, beasts, and ancestral spirits against the ice giants and the forces of darkness. While the Winter Hunt was on, those who provoked the wrath of the gods could find themselves caught in bad luck, while those found themselves favoured would receive good fortune and gifts.

Image: W.G. Collingwood / Wikimedia Commons
Father Christmas/Santa traverses the whole world in one night, very similar to the images of Odin who travelled on his flying eight legged horse, Sleipnir (who's mother was Loki, but that's another very interesting story). The reindeer were never mentioned until the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" in 1823, coincidentally(?) there were 8 reindeer. Children in the day would fill their boots with straw for Sleipnir, and set them by the hearth. Odin would slip down chimneys and fire holes, leaving gifts behind. Today we hang stockings by the fireplace and leave something out for Santa and his reindeer.

Next time you see Santa / Father Christmas on a picture or depicted on TV think of Odin, the god that very probably inspired the legend and maybe over the Yule period raise a glass or horn to the All-father as he flies through the skies. 

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