Where did Santa Claus come from?
The oft-repeated tale of Santa Claus goes like this:
According to the legend, Santa began as a fourth century Catholic bishop named Saint Nicholas. The cult of St. Nicholas was one of histories most widespread religious movements. According to St. Nicholas historian, Charles W. Jones, ". . . the cult of St. Nicholas was, before the Reformation, the most intensive of any nonbiblical saint in Christendom. . . there were 2,137 ecclesiastical dedications [churches] to Nicholas in France, Germany, and the Low Countries alone before the year 1500." (Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p.357)
The popular book, The Christmas Almanack, states, "By the height of the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas was probably invoked in prayer more than any other figure except the Virgin Mary and Christ Himself" (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 131)
Miraculous folklore and legend surround the mysterious St. Nicholas. Among the more popular legends of St. Nicholas is the rescue of three poverty-stricken girls destined for prostitution. These girls were poor and did not have the dowry for marriage. St. Nicholas saved them from a life of shame, by providing marriage dowries of gold. They then were able to get properly married.
Another amazing miracle in the life of St. Nicholas is the three young boys who were sadistically murdered by a wicked innkeeper. Their bodies were chopped up and preserved in pickle barrels, with the cannibalistic intent of feeding their flesh to unsuspecting house guests. Of course, the amazing St. Nicholas resurrected the boys and their mutilated bodies. And like Santa, Saint Nicholas gave gifts to poor children, hence, his veneration as Patron Saint of Children. During the Middle Ages, hundreds of plays and paintings told and re-told the amazing feats of St. Nicholas.
Next, according to legend, Santa magically appears in the Netherlands around the seventeenth century. During this time, Sinter Klaas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) was officially born. Dutch children began the tradition of placing their shoes by the fireplace on December 5, for the mystic fourth century Bishop, Saint Nicholas. (Note: In the Dutch language Saint Nicholas is "Sint Nikolass," which was shortened to "Sinter Klaas," of which the anglicized form is "Santa Claus.") The next morning, the gleeful Dutch children quickly awoke to gifts and goodies in their shoes, left by Sinter Klaas. Like today’s Santa, Sinter Klaas, miraculously, traveled from housetop to housetop, and entered through the chimney.
Our next stop on the Santa highway is the year 1626 in the New World called America. Searching for the "American dream," Dutch settlers sailed from the Netherlands and established the Dutch colony called New Amsterdam (today called New York). The Dutch colonists quickly settled into America, bringing their customs, and of course, their beloved Sinter Klaas.
In December 1809, American essayist Washington Irving published a popular satire of the Dutch founding of New York titled A Knickerbocker History of New York. More than any other event, it was Irving’s Knickerbocker History that is credited for creating our modern day Santa Claus. The following history-making words from The Knickerbocker History became the public inauguration of Santa Claus. Who could have possibly imagined the significance these simple words would soon have?
And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream,–and lo, the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to the children. . . And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the treetops and disappeared. (Irving, Washington. Knickerbocker’s History of New York, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928, p. 50)
At this early period was instituted that pious ceremony, still religiously observed in all our ancient families of the right breed, of hanging up a stocking in the chimney on St. Nicholas Eve; which stocking is always found in the morning miraculously filled; for the good St. Nicholas has ever been a great giver of gifts, particularly to children. (Irving, Washington. Knickerbocker’s History of New York, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928, p. 68)
Next stop on our investigative journey for Santa, surprisingly, comes from the pen of a New York theology professor named Dr. Clement Clarke Moore. In 1822, inspired by Irving’s popular, Knickerbocker History’s portrayal of jolly St. Nicholas, Dr. Moore quietly wrote a trivial poem titled, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his own children as a simple Christmas present. Dr. Moore had no intention of publishing his poem, but in 1823 it was published anonymously, by a friend, in the Troy Sentinel. Moore’s extremely popular poem was the spark that lit the Santa Claus wildfire. Santa quickly began flying through America. Dr. Moore’s poem was later renamed the famous, "Twas’ The Night Before Christmas."
The finishing touches for Santa occurred around 1863 from the artistic hands of cartoonist Thomas Nast. Inspired by Moore’s popular poem, Nast illustrated scores of Santa pictures in Harper’s Weekly and the world was officially baptized with the face of Santa Claus. Nast’s early Santa was burly, stern, gnome-like, and covered with drab fur, much unlike today’s colorful and jolly fellow. But make no mistake – it was Santa.
Let us investigate the traditional Santa story a little closer. . .
The mysterious St. Nicholas.
The first major problem in the Santa Claus saga is the person of St. Nicholas. There is very little evidence, if any, that the man St. Nicholas actually existed.
Nicholas' existence is not attested by any historical document, so nothing certain is known of his life except that he was probably bishop of Myra in the fourth century. . .
("Nicholas, Saint" Encyclopaedia Britannica 99)
Nicholas, Saint (lived 4th century), Christian prelate, patron saint of Russia, traditionally associated with Christmas celebrations. The accounts of his life are confused and historically unconfirmed.
("Nicholas, Saint" Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99)
Unfortunately, very little is known about the real St. Nicholas. Countless legends have grown up around this very popular saint, but very little historical evidence is available. (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 130)
In 1969, the final nail in the coffin to the feeble fable of St. Nicholas was officially hammered down. Despite the fact, St. Nicholas is among Roman Catholicism’s most popular and venerated "Saints," Pope Paul VI officially decreed the feast of Saint Nicholas removed from the Roman Catholic calendar. UPI Wire Services reported that St. Nicholas and forty other saints were deleted because "of doubt that they ever existed." ("Pope Marches 40 Saints Off Official Church Calendar." UPI Wire Services.
Because the saint's life is so unreliably documented, Pope Paul VI ordered the feast of Saint Nicholas dropped from the official Roman Catholic calendar in 1969. ("Santa Claus" Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99)
The next devastating error in the traditional "Santa comes to America" legend is Irving’s Knickerbocker History. Irving claims the early Dutch planted the legend of Sinter Klaas in America. One little problem – it is historically false. In fact, Irving, a well known fiction author of such classics as Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, never intended Knickerbocker History as historical fact, but silly satire. To heighten the satire and humorous effect, Irving even used the comical pen-name of Diedrich Knickerbocker as author.
In October 1954, prominent St. Nicholas historian, Charles W. Jones, published an irrefutable dismantling of the historical accuracy of Irving’s Knickerbocker History in the prestigious, The New-York Historical Society Quarterly titled, "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." Jones proved the early New Amsterdam Dutch were Reformation Dutch who believed the veneration of saints as evil heresy, especially St. Nicholas. Jones provided first-hand documents of the early Dutch that decrees "very severe" laws prohibiting any celebration of St. Nicholas. Jones added that "there is no record of anyone breaking such laws." Jones’s convincing analysis should be carefully examined by anyone researching the true origin of Santa. The following brief cites are from Jones’s convincing work:
Nearly everyone repeats this story [the Dutch-Santa]. . . But when we look at the evidence—that is, the newspapers, magazines, diaries, books, broadsides, music, sculpture, and merchandise of past times, the picture is not substantiated. (Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p. 362)
There is no evidence that it [Santa Claus] existed in New Amsterdam, or for a century after occupation. . . (Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p. 362)
I have not found evidence of St. Nicholas in any form—in juveniles or periodicals or diaries—in the period of Dutch rule, or straight through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the year 1773. (Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p. 362)
Jones also adds insult to injury. The traditional tale that Santa Claus is the anglicized corruption of the Dutch Sinter Klaas is also incorrect. Jones states, "And by the way, Santa Claus is not a characteristically Dutch corruption. The place it has survived from early times in Switzerland and southern Germany." (Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p. 366)
When examined with historical facts, the oft-repeated history of Santa is so full of gross errors it ranks among histories greatest goofs.
The final death-blow to the traditional tale of Santa Claus is the belief that Santa Claus is actually the mystic Bishop St. Nicholas. We previously established that no historical evidence exists collaborating the person of St. Nicholas, but ignoring that serious blunder for a few minutes, let us investigate the fable that Santa and St. Nicholas are the same.
The truth is, there exists no factual connection from St. Nicholas to Santa Claus. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Every serious researcher into the origin of Santa Claus verifies this fact. A few examples, among hundreds, validates our ironclad case:
Years of research confirmed that initial doubt: Santa Claus is an Americanization, all right, but not of a Catholic Saint. . . Despite a century of repetition, this story is simply untrue. . . (Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997, pp. 5,7)
The dilemma was solved by transferring the visit of the mysterious man whom the Dutch called Santa Claus from December 5 to Christmas, and by introducing a radical change in the figure itself. It was not merely a "disguise," but the ancient saint was completely replaced by an entirely different character. . .With the Christian saint whose name he still bears, however this Santa Claus has really nothing to do. (Weiser, Francis X. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1952, p. 114)
Although the Dutch brought Sinta Claes [sic] with them to the New World in the seventh century, Santa Claus was not born until the nineteenth century and was an American, not a Dutch, creation. . . If Nicholas, the ascetic bishop of fourth-century Asia Minor, could see Santa Claus, he would not know who he was. (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, pp. 138,141)
Another serious obstacle in the "St. Nicholas is Santa Claus" legend involves the date of December 25. The Feast and Visit of St. Nicholas is celebrated on December 6 (the fictional date of his death), not December 25. Even today, St. Nicholas Day and Sinter Klaas are still celebrated on December 6. The date of St. Nicholas Day has never been December 25.
Despite the many times the Santa legend is told, the magical St. Nicholas to Santa Claus fairy-tale is simply untrue.
Where did Santa come from?
Nearly all Santa researchers agree that some traits of Santa was borrowed from Norse [Scandinavian] mythology.
Encyclopedia Britannica describes the role of Nordic mythology in the life of Santa:
Sinterklaas was adopted by the country's English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. ("Santa Claus" Encyclopaedia Britannica 99)
Some Santa researchers associate Santa with the Norse "god" of Odin or Woden. Crichton describes Odin as riding through the sky on an eight-legged, white horse name Sleipnir. (Santa originally had eight reindeers, Rudolph was nine). Odin lived in Valhalla (the North) and had a long white beard. Odin would fly through the sky during the winter solstice (December 21-25) rewarding the good children and punishing the naughty. (Crichton, Robin. Who is Santa Claus? The Truth Behind a Living Legend. Bath: The Bath Press, 1987, pp. 55-56)
Mythologist Helene Adeline Guerber presents a very convincing case tracing Santa to the Norse god Thor in Myths of Northern Lands:
Thor was the god of the peasants and the common people. He was represented as an elderly man, jovial and friendly, of heavy build, with a long white beard. His element was the fire, his color red. The rumble and roar of thunder were said to be caused by the rolling of his chariot, for he alone among the gods never rode on horseback but drove in a chariot drawn by two white goats (called Cracker and Gnasher). He was fighting the giants of ice and snow, and thus became the Yule-god. He was said to live in the "Northland" where he had his palace among icebergs. By our pagan forefathers he was considered as the cheerful and friendly god, never harming the humans but rather helping and protecting them. The fireplace in every home was especially sacred to him, and he was said to come down through the chimney into his element, the fire. (Guerber, H.A. Myths of Northern Lands. New York: American Book Company, 1895, p. 61)
The unusual and common characteristics of Santa and Thor are too close to ignore.
An elderly man, jovial and friendly and of heavy build.
With a long white beard.
His element was the fire and his color red.
Drove a chariot drawn by two white goats, named called Cracker and Gnasher.
He was the Yule-god. (Yule is Christmas time).
He lived in the Northland (North Pole).
He was considered the cheerful and friendly god.
He was benevolent to humans.
The fireplace was especially sacred to him.
He came down through the chimney into his element, the fire.
Even today in Sweden, Thor represents Santa Claus. The book, The Story of the Christmas Symbols, records:
Swedish children wait eagerly for Jultomten, a gnome whose sleigh is drawn by the Julbocker, the goats of the thunder god Thor. With his red suit and cap, and a bulging sack on his back, he looks much like the American Santa Claus. (Barth, Edna. Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights, The Story of the Christmas Symbols. New York: Clarion Books, 1971, p. 49)
Thor was probably history’s most celebrated and worshipped pagan god. His widespread influence is particularly obvious in the fifth day of the week, which is named after him – Thursday (a.k.a. Thor’s Day).
It is ironic that Thor’s symbol was a hammer. A hammer is also the symbolic tool of the carpenter – Santa Claus. It is also worth mentioning that Thor’s helpers were elves and like Santa’s elves, Thor’s elves were skilled craftsman. It was the elves who created Thor’s magic hammer.
In the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, author Francis Weiser traces the origin of Santa to Thor: "Behind the name Santa Claus actually stands the figure of the pagan Germanic god Thor." (Weiser, Francis X. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1952, p. 113)
After listing some the common attributes of Thor and Santa, Weiser concludes:
Here, [Thor] then, is the true origin of our "Santa Claus." . . . With the Christian saint whose name he still bears, however, this Santa Claus has really nothing to do. (Weiser, Francis X. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1952, p. 114)
Another interesting trait of Thor is recorded by H.R. Ellis Davidson in Scandinavian Mythology, "It was Thor who in the last days of heathenism was regarded as the chief antagonist of Christ." (Davidson, H.R. Ellis. Scandinavian Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1982, p. 133) In case you are not aware, an "antagonist" is an enemy, adversary or replacement.
The bizarre and mutual attributes of Thor and Santa are no accident.
While the pagan brush strokes of Norse mythology has painted some of the traits of Santa Claus, there exists another brush stroke coloring Santa that bids our inspection.
There is a little-known piece in the life of Santa that time and tradition has silently erased. Few people are aware that for most of his life, St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas, Christkind, et. al.) had an unusual helper or companion. This mysterious sidekick had many names or aliases. He was known as Knecht Rupprecht; Pelznickle; Ru-Klas; Swarthy; Dark One; Dark Helper; Black Peter; Hans Trapp; Krampus; Grampus; Zwarte Piets; Furry Nicholas; Rough Nicholas; Schimmelreiter; Klapperbock; Julebuk; et. al.
Though his name changed, he was always there.
Some other well known titles given to St. Nick’s bizarre companion is a demon, evil one, the devil and Satan. One of his dark duties was to punish children and "gleefully drag them to hell."
The following references are provided to demonstrate the "devil" who accompanies St. Nicholas is a well documented fact. In every forerunner of Santa this dark and diabolic character appears.
It is the Christkind who brings the presents, accompanied by one of its many devilish companions, Knecht Rupprecht, Pelznickle, Ru-Klas. . . (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 70)
In many areas of Germany, Hans Trapp is the demon who accompanies Christkind on its gift-giving round. . . (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 75)
Another Christmas demon from lower Austria, Krampus or Grampus, accompanies St. Nicholas on December 6. (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 94)
Like Santa, Sinterklaas and the Dark Helper were also supposed to have the peculiar habit of entering homes through the chimney. . . (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, p. 102)
In Sarajevo in Bosnia, Saint Nickolas appears with gifts for the children in spite of the war and shelling. He is assisted by a small black devil who scares the children. (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, p. 102)
Ruprecht here plays the part of bogeyman, a black, hairy, horned, cannibalistic, stick-carrying nightmare. His role and character are of unmitigated evil, the ultimate horror that could befall children who had been remiss in learning their prayers and doing their lessons. He was hell on earth. (Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997, p. 155)
In Holland, Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) wore a red robe while riding a white horse and carried a bag of gifts to fill the children's stockings. A sinister assistant called Black Pete proceeded Sinterklaas in the Holland tradition to seek out the naughty boys and girls who would not receive gifts. ("History of Santa Claus,"
The Christian figure of Saint Nicholas replaced or incorporated various pagan gift-giving figures such as the Roman Befana and the Germanic Berchta and Knecht Ruprecht. . . He was depicted wearing a bishop's robes and was said to be accompanied at times by Black Peter, an elf whose job was to whip the naughty children.("Santa Claus" Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99)
Christmas historian Miles Clement relates that no "satisfactory account has yet been given" to the origins of these demons and devils that appear with St. Nicholas.
It can hardly be said that any satisfactory account has yet been given of the origins of this personage, or of his relation to St. Nicholas, Pelzmarte, and monstrous creatures like the Klapperbock. (Miles, Clement A. Christmas in Ritual and Tradition Christian and Pagan. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912, p. 232)
Maybe a satisfactory account has been given. Let us keep reading.
Previously, we established the peculiar fact that today’s Santa Claus and St. Nicholas are not the same. They never have been. Santa Claus is dressed in a long shaggy beard, furs, short, burly and obese. The legends of St. Nicholas portrayed a thin, tall, neatly dressed man in religious apparel. You could not possibly find two different characters.
If Nicholas, the ascetic bishop of fourth-century Asia Manor, could see Santa Claus, he would not know who he was. (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, pp. 138,141)
So the legends of Saint Nicholas afford but a slight clew to the origin of Santa Klaus,–alike, indeed, in name but so unlike in all other respects. (Walsh, William S. The Story of Santa Klaus. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1970, p. 54)
The startling fact is, Santa Claus is not the Bishop St. Nicholas – but his Dark Helper!
In certain German children’s games, the Saint Nicholas figure itself is the Dark Helper, a devil who wants to punish children, but is stopped from doing so by Christ. (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, p. 105)
Black Pete, the ‘grandfather’ of our modern Santa Claus. Known in Holland as Zwarte Piet, this eighteenth-century German version, is—like his ancient shamanic ancestor—still horned, fur-clad, scary, and less than kind to children. Although portrayed as the slave helper of Saint Nicholas, the two are, in many villages, blended into one character. This figure often has the name Nikolass or Klaus, but has the swarthy appearance of the Dark Helper. (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, p. 98)
Artist Thomas Nast is rightfully credited for conceiving the image of our modern day Santa, but Nast’s model for Santa was not the Bishop St. Nicholas but his dark companion, the evil Pelznickle.
The Christmas demon Knecht Rupprecht first appeared in a play in 1668 and was condemned by the Roman Catholic as being a devil in 1680. . . To the Pennsylvania Dutch, he is known as Belsnickel. Other names for the same character are Pelznickle, "Furry Nicholas," and Ru-Klas, "Rough Nicholas." From these names, it is easy to see that he is looked upon as not merely a companion to St. Nicholas, but almost another version of him. (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, pp. 93,94)
In Thomas Nast: His Period and His Pictures, biographer Albert Bigelow Paine, documents that Nast’s Santa was Pelznickle.
But on Christmas Eve, to Protestant and Catholic alike, came the German Santa Claus, Pelze-Nicol, leading a child dressed as the Christkind, and distributing toys and cakes, or switches, according as the parents made report. It was this Pelze-Nicol – a fat, fur-clad, bearded old fellow, at whose hands he doubtless received many benefits – that the boy in later years was to present to us as his conception of the true Santa Claus – a pictorial type which shall lone endure. (Paine, Albert Bigelow. Thomas Nast: His Period and His Pictures. New York: Chelsea House, 1980, p. 6)
Santa historian and author, Tony van Renterghem also documents Nast’s Santa Claus was not Saint Nicholas, but the evil Black Pete–the devil.
Thomas Nast was assigned to draw this Santa Claus, but having no idea what he looked like, drew him as the fur-clad, small, troll-like figure he had known in Bavaria when he was a child. This figure was quite unlike the tall Dutch Sinterklaas, who was traditionally depicted as a Catholic bishop. Who he drew was Saint Nicholas’ dark helper, Swarthy, or Black Pete (a slang name for the devil in medieval Dutch). . . (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, pp. 95-96)
Santa researcher, Phyllis Siefker, echoes Renterghem’s conclusion:
It seems obvious, therefore, that Santa Claus can be neither the alter ego of Saint Nicholas nor the brainchild of Washington Irving. . . If we peek behind the imposing Saint Nicholas, we see, glowering in the shadows, the saint’s reprobate companion, Black Pete. He, like Santa, has a coat of hair, a disheveled beard, a bag, and ashes on his face. . . In fact, it is this creature, rather than Irving’s creation or an Asian saint, who fathered Santa Claus. (Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997, p. 15)
By the way, St. Nicholas did not come down the chimney. It was his fur-clad, dark companion that came down the chimney. One of the reasons his sidekick was called the "Dark One" or "Black Peter" was because he was normally covered in soot and ashes from his chimney travels. The "dark companion" also carried the bag, distributed the goodies and punished the bad boys and girls.
Children [in Holland] are told that Black Peter enters the house through the chimney, which also explained his black face and hands, and would leave a bundle of sticks or a small bag with salt in the shoe instead of candy when the child had been bad. ("Saint Nicholas," Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
It is significant that Black Peter, Pelze-Nicol, Knecht Rupprecht and all of St. Nicholas companions are openly identified as the devil.
To the medieval Dutch, Black Peter was another name for the devil. Somewhere along the way, he was subdued by St. Nicholas and forced to be his servant. (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 44)
In Denmark, Sweden, and Norway creatures resembling both the Schimmelreiter and the Klapperbock are or were to be met with at Christmas. . . People seem to have had a bad conscience about these things, for there are stories connecting them with the Devil. A girl, for instance, who danced at midnight with a straw Julebuk, found that her partner was no puppet but the Evil One himself. (Miles, Clement A. Christmas in Ritual and Tradition Christian and Pagan. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912, p. 202)
Thus, in parts of Europe, the Church turned Herne into Saint Nicholas’ captive, chained Dark Helper, none other than Satan, the Dark One, symbolic of all evil. (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, p. 97)
One of the bizarre jobs of St. Nick’s devilish helper was to "gleefully drag sinners" to hell!
On the eve of December 6, the myth told that this bearded, white-haired old ‘saint,’ clad in a wide mantel, rode through the skies on a white horse, together with his slave, the swarthy Dark Helper. This reluctant helper had to disperse gifts to good people, but much preferred to threaten them with his broom-like scourge, and, at a sign of his master, would gleefully drag sinners away to a place of eternal suffering. (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, p. 111)
It is also alarming that Santa’s popular title, "Nick," is also a common name for "the devil."
Old Nick: A well-known British name of the Devil. It seems probable that this name is derived from the Dutch Nikken, the devil..." (Shepard, Leslie A. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. New York: Gale Research Inc. 1991, p. 650)
Nick, the devil. (Skeat, Walter W. Concise Dictionary of English Etymology. Ware: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1993, p. 304)
Devil: Besides the name Satan, he is also called Beelzebub, Lucifer . . . and in popular or rustic speech by many familiar terms as Old Nick . . . (Oxford English Dictionary)
Nicholas is one of the most common devil’s names in German, a name that remains today when Satan is referred as Old Nick. (Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997, p. 69)
The shocking truth is Santa Claus originated from a character identified as the devil or Satan.
Something else that fashioned our modern day Santa was the popular medieval Christmas plays of the tenth through the sixteenth century. These miracle, moral, mystery and passion dramas acted out scenes from the scriptures and the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Combining humor and religion, they flourished during the fifteenth century. It is significant that St. Nicholas was a dominant theme among these plays. Much of the myth and outlandish miracles of St. Nicholas originated from these dramas. And much of the bizarre characteristics of Santa were planted in these Christmas plays.
In the classic, Teutonic Mythology, author Jacob Grimm provides us with some revealing detail into St, Nicholas’s transformation into Santa. Notice in the following excerpt from Teutonic Mythology where Nicholas converts himself into the Knecht Ruprecht [the devil], a "man of Clobes" or a "man of Claus." Grimm states, the characters of Nicholas and Knecht Ruprecht "get mixed, and Clobes [Claus] himself is the "man."
The Christmas plays sometimes present the Saviour with His usual attendant Peter or else with Niclas [St. Nicholas]. At other times however Mary with Gabriel, or with her aged Joseph, who, disguised as a peasant, acts the part of Knecht Ruprecht Nicholas again has converted himself into a "man Clobes" or Rupert; as a rule there is still a Niclas, a saintly bishop and benevolent being distinct from the "man" who scares children; the characters get mixed, and Clobes himself acts the "man." (qtd. in Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997, p. 69)
From Grimm’s account, in the early 1100’s, the transformation of St. Nicholas into Santa Claus from the devil Knecht Ruprecht was in full throttle.
There is not enough space in this book to adequately document the influence and inspiration of the medieval plays into the making of Santa, but let us examine Santa’s trademark "Ho! Ho! Ho!". Most people have no idea where this came from, and more important whom it came from. . .
In The Drama Before Shakespeare - A Sketch, author Frank Ireson, describes the popular Miracle Play. Notice the description of the devil as "shaggy, hairy," etc. (as Santa), and notice the devil’s trademark "exclamation on entering was ho, ho, ho!":
Besides allegorical personages, there were two standing characters very prominent in Moral Plays—the Devil and Vice. The Devil was, no doubt, introduced from the Miracle Plays, where he had figured so amusingly; he was made as hideous as possible by his mask and dress, the latter being generally of a shaggy and hairy character, and he was duly provided with a tail: his ordinary exclamation on entering was, "Ho, ho, ho! what a felowe [sic] am I."(Ireson, Frank. "The Drama Before Shakespeare - A Sketch." 1920 )
Siefker also collaborates the devil’s trademark "ho, ho, ho."
In these plays, the devil’s common entry line, known as the "devil’s bluster," was "Ho! Ho! Hoh!"(Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997, p. 69)
The devil’s trademark "ho, ho, ho" was carried over from the early medieval Miracle Plays to the popular old English play "Bomelio," as the following lines from the play verify:
What, and a' come? I conjure thee, foul spirit, down to hell! Ho, ho, ho! the devil, the devil! A-comes, a-comes, a-comes upon me,. . .
(Dodsley, Robert. A Select Collection of Old English Plays, Vol. VI. The Project Gutenberg Ebook.
Another extremely popular character dominating the medieval plays was Robin Goodfellow (Robin Hood was created from him). Robin Goodfellow was a caricature of the devil, dressed with horns, shaggy, furs, and cloven feet.
Author Gillian Mary Edwards in Hobgoblin and Sweet Puck, provides some interesting insight into Robin Goodfellow:
One of the most popular characters in English folklore of the last thousand years has been the faerie, goblin, devil or imp known by the name of Puck or Robin Goodfellow. The Welsh called him Pwca, which is pronounced the same as his Irish incarnation Phouka, Pooka or Puca. Parallel words exist in many ancient languages - puca in Old English, puki in Old Norse, puke in Swedish, puge in Danish, puks in Low German, pukis in Latvia and Lithuania – mostly with the original meaning of a demon, devil or evil and malignant spirit. . . (Edwards, Gillian Mary. Hobgoblin and Sweet Puck. London: Bles Publishers, 1974, p. 143)
In The History of a Hobgoblin, author Allen W. Wright, reveals "Robin itself was a medieval nickname for the devil" and "Robin's trademark laugh is "Ho Ho Ho!":
Robin Goodfellow appeared in more plays around 1600. And there were many 17th century broadside ballads about him. . . Robin's trademark laugh is "Ho Ho Ho!" . . . Robin itself was a medieval nickname for the devil. (Wright, Allen W. "The History of a Hobgoblin."
The original author is hidden today, but the devil’s trademark "Ho! Ho! Ho!" was common knowledge before the coming of Santa Claus.
Author Tony Renterghem, concludes his extensive research into the origin of Santa with the following statement:
I can only conclude that the original ancestor of our modern Santa Claus is none other than the mythological Dark Helper-a faint memory of Herne/Pan, the ancient shamanic nature spirit of the Olde Religion. (Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995, p. 93)
Note: Herne or Pan is the horned god. It is common knowledge that Pan and Herne are popular names for Satan. The Satanic Bible lists Pan as one of the Infernal Names of Satan. (LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon Books, Inc., 1969 p. 144)
After researching scores of books and material on the origin of Santa Claus, by far, the best book on this subject is Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, authored by the late University of Kansas associate, Phyllis Siefker. This is no child’s book, but a scholarly exploration into the origin of Santa Claus. It is published by the prestigious McFarland Publishers, a leading publisher of reference and academic books. This book carries no Christian bias, but is simply a secular, non Christian scholastic study. With that in mind, the following analysis by Siefkler is even more alarming:
The fact is that Santa and Satan are alter egos, brothers; they have the same origin. . . On the surface, the two figures are polar opposites, but underneath they share the same parent, and both retain many of the old symbols associated with their "father" . . . From these two paths, he arrived at both the warmth of our fireplace and in the flames of hell. (Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997, p. 6)
Next we shall examine Santa in the light of the Word of God.