Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus, Info- and Booking Center Westerkwartier
The Figures and the Customs around Santa Claus.         Dutch version

On this page we are giving short, but nevertheless, as accurate as possible explanations about the origin of the nowadays Customs and Figures around the tradition of Santa Claus. Also we do describe a few customs that are actually more belonging to the Christian feast of Christmas, but which have also an connection with the Santa Claus tradition. We will mention this clearly each time when we decribe them.
Of course it is not possible to substantiate all info with scientific and registrated data, but by comparing the many stories and the time in which they were already known, with stories where we know the origin or the or the reason behind the story, you get a reasonable understanding who (or what) is influenced by who (or what). For much more comprehensive data (e.g. for scientific thesis), we refer to the 'Sinterklaas and Santa Claus Archive' from J.W. Koning.

The Chrismas tradition:

The Origin/Arise:
An old holiday.
The middle of winter was already for a long time, for many cultures all over the world, a time of celebration. Many people rejoiced the winter-solstice (Solstice), when the darkest of the winter was over and they could look forward to longer days and more hours of sunlight.
Now did the Solstice in Europe not fall in the middle of the winter, as it is in Western Europe for example in January/February usually colder as in December. But also there was the Solstice (the end of December) an excellent time for a party. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered, so they did not need to be fed during the winter. For many people, it was thereby the only time of the year they had a sufficient supply of fresh meat. In addition, most of the wine of the fruits of that year and the beer of the grain harvest of that year were finally fermented and ready to drink. And in the winter were activities as hunting, agriculture, farming and cattle breeding on a lower level. So there was time, eating and drinking enough in that periode of the year.
Centuries before the arrival of the man named Jesus, the peoples celebrated in Europe thus already the Festival of lights and the birth of the 'new Sun' in the darkest days of winter. These events are characterized by the large fires that were inflamed, to indicate that the Sun would return. The Easter fires today are actually the echo's or the mirror image of them. They confirm that the Sun (and spring) is returned.

Norway is the homeland of the Yule log. Log means wood block. "Yule" comes from the Norse Word hweol, which means wheel. The Norwegians believed that the time was an everlasting turning wheel.
The old Norwegians used the Yule-log in their celebration of the return of the Sun. Fathers and sons brought large wood blocks home (often stumps of that year harvested trees), they put them on fire ootuside the house. The people would continue to party until the piece of wood (Yule log) or the wood pile was burnt out. Soon these celebrations lasted a day or twelve. The old Norwegians believed that each spark from the fire was the spark of life for a new pig or calf that would be born in the coming year. So the more fire you had, the more sparks there came, and the more sparks you had, the more young cattle you'd get, How more blessed you thus would be. Norwegian: 'Gledelig Jul!'
Yule Log
Bij other tribes (Nations) happened almost exactly the same, but for slightly different reasons.
The Celts, the Teutons, the Frisians and other ancient tribes believed that during the Yule, the spirits of the dead wandered freely around (think of the current celebration of Haloween). And the people were afraid that these spirits would penetrate through chimneys or other smoke-holes to bring doom inside the houses. It was therefore a settled custom with these peoples to keep their log fires constantly burning during the Yule celebration, in order to prevent the spirits to come in. With the Celts and Teutons, this was done by cutting down a large tree, such as the Oak King, call ("Bright One"), each year with the Yule does cut down the Holly King, Ble ("Great Tree"). After being cut down the big tree was with much glee and pride brought home. We see this still at the cutting down and bringing home the Christmas tree. Once at home, the tree was with the stump placed first in the fire. While this did burn, slowly the rest of the tree was getting pushed further into the fire, so as to feed the flames. It could take days before such a tree was burned out. This is the origin of the present Yule log and of the cutting-down/buying and bringing home the Christmas tree.
And so it is also one of the reasons why the fireplace or any other open fire does take such a central place in the Christmas traditions. It is presumably the origin of the serving from woodblock-shaped cakes, cheeses and puddings the during the Christmas season.
Although with this ancient ritual also other trees such as Apple, ash, or oak were used, was it the Evergreen perennial trees that was preferred, because of its symbolic meaning. And among those evergreen trees was it the yew that was used the most, because of his sharp needles and red berries it was the reminiscent of the Holly with his stinging baderen and his lucky red berries.
Yule Log Fire



In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin in the middle of the winter period. Germans were terrified of Odin, because they thought he flew through the air at night to investigate his people, and that he then decided who would succeed in life or who would perish. For fear of his presence, many people did chose to stay indoors when it was dark. This is the reason why Christmas there (and later everywhere) has become a feast of jointly celebrating a 'cosy' Christmas at home.

In Rome, where the winters were not as harsh as those in the far North, was Saturnalia a celebration in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture-celebrated. This started in the week leading up to the winter solstice and did last a full month long. Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, food and drink was there in abundance and the normal Roman social order was turned on its head. A month long were slaves the masters, farmers were citycouncelors, businesses and schools were closed, so that everyone could join in the fun. Around the time of the winter solstice, the Romans also celebrated Juvenalia, a celebration in honor of the children of Rome. In addition, the members of the upper classes celebrated on 25 december often the birthday of Mithra, the god of the invincible Sun. It was believed that Mithra, a child god, was born out of a rock. For some Romans was the birthday of Mithra the holiest day of the year.

The melting together:
In the early years of Christianity, was Easter the most important Christian holiday, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century AD the church officials decided to make the birthday of Jesus a public holiday. Unfortunately there is no mention in the Bible of the date of his birth (a fact that the Puritans used later to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although there are some indications that birth may have taken place in the spring (why should shepherds be out in the fields with sheep and lambs in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius did chose for december 25. It is widely believed that the Church has chosen this date in an attempt to make us forget the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First it was called the feast of the Nativity (Natal or Navidad), a modified version of the feast spread first to Egypt, around 432, and afterwards (end of the sixth century) to England and France. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas was spread already to in Scandinavia.
Today, in the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th december, that day is also referred to as the three wise men or three kings day. That is the day when the three wise men finally found the long-sought Jesus in the manger.
By holding the Christmas feast at the same time as the traditional winter solstice festivals, the church leaders increased the chance that the population would embraced Christmas, and also gave it the population the ability to decide themselves how it was celebrated.
At the beginning of the Middle Ages Christianity was, to a large extent, replaced again by pagan religion, many Christian and pre-Christian rituals and customs were themselves inextricably mixed. On Christmas, believers went to church, and celebrated than at the end of the mass a drunken, carnival-like celebration, similar to Mardi Gras. The current Carnival is here the remnant of.
Christmas was the time of year when the upper classes could pay back their real or imagined "debt(s)" to society by giving something to the less fortunate citizens. Each year a beggar or student was crowned as the "Lord of misrule" and enthusiastic revelers played the role of his subjects. The poor went to the homes of the rich and demanded their best food and drinks. If owners of those houses gave nothing, then their visitors would probably terrorize them with mischief.
The westEuropian 'Saint Martin's walk' and the 'Trick or treat' at Haloween do originate from this.

A free-spirited Christmas:
In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan followers in 1645 came to power in England, they promised that they would liberate England of decadence. And, as part of their effort, Christmas was cancelled. Later when, by popular demand, Charles II was put back on the throne. And with him, also came the return of the popular december Festival.
The 'pilgrims', English separatists who came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their puritanical faith as Cromwell. As a result of this, Christmas was no holiday in America at that time. From 1659 to 1681 in Boston, was the celebration of Christmas even banned. Everyone who did participate or was involved in the exhibition of the spirit of Christmas was fined five shillings. There stood opposite, that Captain John Smith reported that in the Jamestown settlement, Christmas was celebrated by everyone and that it happend without incidents.
After the American Revolution, many English regulations and/or bans got out of favor, so it went also with the ban to celebrate Christmas. And so the free-spirited Americans did celebrated Christmas again.

The way of celebrating Christmas with a Christmas tree as we know it today, is a Victorian concoction from the 1860s. Being probably the most celebrated holiday in the world, Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday as a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. Two millennia long, the people around the world have celebrated it with both religious and mythological traditions and customs. Christians celebrate Christmas day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Folk customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, going to church, sharing meals with family and friends and of course waiting for the gifts from Santa Claus. Christmas, 25 december, is a Federal holiday in the United States since 1870.
A similar celebration in other countries:
Most people in Scandinavian countries honor each year on December 13, Saint Lucia (also known as St. Lucy). The celebration of St. Lucia day started in Sweden, but was already in the middle of the 19th century already spread to Denmark and Finland. This light Festival had to made the people forget the pagan Yulefeest.
In these countries, this day is seen as the beginning of the Christmas season, and it is therefore also often called "small Yule".
Christmas Tree

The decoration in the houses:

(The Green and the Christmas bells):
All already for the origin of the Christian adventtijd, plants and trees that remained green all year, did in the winter have a special meaning for the people. Just as people now decorate their homes during the adventtijd with branches of the pine and the fir, also the ancient peoples hung Evergreen arches above their doors and windows. In many countries, the superstition doe exist this will keep the evil spirits and diseases outside the door.
In other countries people saw the Evergreen arches as a reference to all the plants that would be green again as the Sun God became stronger again and the summer would come back again.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped the god Ra. On the solstice (= shortest day), as Ra begins to recover from his illness, the Egyptians adorned their homes with green palm-leaves that for them is the symbol of the triumph of life over death.
The first Romans decorated their homes and temples with Evergreen Arches because of the solstice.
Palm leaf

In Northern Europe it were the mysterious Druids, the priests of the Celts, who adorned their temples with Evergreen arches, as symbol for eternal life. On the other hand, the fearless Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of Balder, their Sun God.

Unlike most trees and shrubs, which every winter seem to be 'dying', evergreen shrubs and treesdo not lose their leaves in winter, and thus remain 'a life'. Therefore, it was thought that they brought happiness and health. And so were evergreen trees such as pines, pine trees, spruce, yew, as well as Holly, Ivy, Laurel, and Rosemary, all used to decorate the shelters to protect them and to bring health and prosperity to the residents (In countries such as Egypt, for example, fresh green palm leaves were used).
Wreaths, symbols of the wheel of time, were also woven from branches of these plants. Here does our current Christmas wreath originate from.
The wreaths and the arches were adorned with natural ornaments, such as pineapples, berries, and other fruit, but also with symbols devoted to the gods and goddesses.
Christmas Wreath

Holly and Mistletoe:
The Holly, dedicated to Holly King, was considered as particularly bringing happiness, and it was thought that if they were planted outside around a residence, that this would offer protection against storm, lightning-strikes and other evil.
In a special ceremony, held during the time of the Yule ritulen, the Celtic Druids gathered 'an t-uiL-oc' ("all-heal = Healing everything"), the mistletoe that was dedicated to the Oak King.
Mistletoe is a plant that grows as a kind of parasite in other trees and he has no roots in/to the ground. For this reason, it was thought that he was of divine origin and/or was created by the lightning. Although it is generally assumed that the mistletoe only grows on Oak, is that rarely so, you will find him so mostly on Apple trees and other fruit trees.
Therefore was an oak where mistletoe grew on also considered to be a sacred oak, and therefore was that mistletoe that grew on an oak considered as very special.
On the sixth day of the Moon, the Archdrud (main Druid) led a procession of Druids into the forest, on a quest for mistletoe growing on Oak. If they had found this, then he climbed in the oak and cut with a golden athame (narrow, ceremonial sickle), the mistletoe from the branches. To prevent that the power of the mistletoe would flow back to Earth, the mistletoe did not may touch the ground. Therefore it was catched in white linen sheets.
After the returning of this procession, and in spite of the fact that the mistletoe is quite toxic and can cause hallucinations, vomiting, heart attacks and even death, it was then prepared by the Druids to cure various ailments, and also used in several rituals. The sticky juice of the white mistletoe-berries was considered to be the seed of the gods. As with the Holly, Mistletoe was believed to give protection against thunderstorms, lightning-strikes and other evil. Often there was mistletoe more harvested due to the ecstasy during such a procession than was needed, the excess mistletoe was then divided among the local population, which it then hung up above doorways to protect their shelters. It was also a long time a symbol of peace, and the tradition demanded that enemies who walked/went trough under such a mistletoe had to lay down their weapons.
The kiss under a mistletoe branch (often visible to anyone) was as well a promise to each other, as a request to the gods for a lifelong partnership. Also was the kiss under a Mistletoe branch a request to the gods to fertility. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe still exists, only the meaning often seems to have changed. Today, standing under a Mistletoe seen as a blank cheque to 'steal' a kiss, which further has no obligation. This is actually a value loss for the centuries-old tradition. Hopefully it will get the meaning back again from asking for-and promise of a life long and happy partnership.


The tree and the lights and decorations in the tree:
We have already talked about the hacking and the bringing home of the tree.
That was at first for creating the fire or/and for keeping the fire burning, but later the function of the tree did change. Germany is seen as the country that started with the Christmas tree tradition as we know it today. Presumably once started with a nice branch of the Yulelog which one was as a tribute to the Yule-log, decorated and plced on a charming place in the house. Perhaps because there were not enough trees to hack, and with only bald trunks the people did mis the looks of the green branches, so far the why. The where and the when we do not know.
We do know that in the 16th century devoted Christians did put decorated trees in their homes. Some people did built Christmas pyramids of deadwood because firewood was scarce and decorated it with Evergreen branches. It was widely believed that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, was the first person who added lighted candles to a tree. The story goes that he, while on a winter evening walking back home and in the meanwhile trying to compose a sermon (Christian verse), he looking through the branches of evergreen trees awestruck discovered the radiant splendor of the stars. To display that beautiful image at home, he did put a Fir (tannenbaum) upright in the living room and filled the branches with lighted candles.
It is of course a perfect justification for church people to have a Christmas tree at home. But more likely is that it started with having lighted candles in the previously mentioned ornamental tree or showbranch, which was placed in the house for lack of a real big tree. Because those ornamental tree (branches) did not get burned (no spirits chased) and hence did give no lucky sparks, one may suppose that the peolpe did want to achieve or symbolize this through burning candles.

Most 19th century Americans found Christmas trees a weird phenomenon. The first note of a Christmas tree on display was in the 1830s by German immigrants in Pennsylvania, although the trees were already a tradition for years before that, in the rooms of the houses of the Germans. German settlements in Pennsylvania did in 1747 have a common Christmas tree. But certainly up till the 1840s Christmas trees were seen by most Americans as a pagan symbol and they were therefore not accepted by them.
By the influence of German and Irish immigrants the strong Puritan rejection got undermined.
When, therefore, in 1846, the popular Royal couple, Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert, along with their children, in the "Illustrated London News" were depicted, joint standing around a Christmas tree, the Christmas tree became a hot fashion item. And not only in Great Britain and Europe, but also in the very fashion conscious Society on the US East Coast. The Christmas tree became a regular feature of the Christmas traditions on the East coast of America.
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Children around a Christmastree

Tree decorations:
In the 1890s were the first Christmas Ornaments imported from Germany to America and the popularity of the Christmas tree was spreading throughout the whole U.S.Aa. The difference between Europe and America was, that the Europeans used small trees of about 120 cm high which they bought on tree-centers, while the Americans liked Christmas trees which had a floor-to-ceiling range and also that the Americans made a special event again of the hacking and bringing home of the tree.
In the early years of the 20th century most North Americans (USA and Canada) adorned their Christmas trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the Americans of German origin continued decorating with apples, nuts, and marzipan sweets. Popcorn in the tree came in vogue when it could be dyed in bright colors and was used in addition to edible berries and nuts. The invention and development of electricity brought electric Christmas lights, making it possible was that Christmas trees were lit for days on end, without monitoring and care. As a result, it was possible to to have Christmas trees on the squares and markets in the places, and so that happened more and more. And like in Germany, having Christmas tree in the House became a North American tradition.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
The Rockefeller Center Christmastree One of the first really big Christmas trees stood at Rockefeller Center in New York City. It was during the years of the great financial depression the simple small undecorated tree was placed in 1931 by the builders of the construction of the building, in the middle of this construction. So they had, despite the fact that they had to work during the Christmas days, still a little Christmas party.
Two years later there was again a Christmas tree, but this time he was lit.
The largest Christmas tree that ever was put down at Rockefeller Center was a Norwegian Fir that came from Killingworth, Connecticut. This Christmas tree stood there in 1948 and was 100 feet high (more than 30 meters!).
Nowadays the big Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is adorned with more as 25,000 Christmas lights.
The Rockefeller Center Tree is standing at Rockefeller Center, on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 47th and 51st streets in New York City.

Other decorations as the tree itself, and as the Holly, the mistletoe, the candles and the wreaths
The other decorations have different origins and meanings.
- Christmas Bells came in all shapes as decoration to indicate the call for the Christmas mass and to Christian charity.
- The star and the Christmas Angel in the top of the tree, and other angels in the tree are also referring to the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus, and also do the Christmas stables.
- The Christmas balls refer back to the apples which were hung in the tree. Or they refer to the cones of a Fir.
- Bows as decoration came when someone once hung a small gift with a Ribbon in the Christmas tree and did like the beautiful bow in the Ribbon so much that it stayed after the gift was collected. Other who did see it, did hang a ribbon with bow in their tree also.
- Garlands in the tree are derived from loose truned ribbons or from ribbons without a bows.
- Danish homes are often decorated with Kravlenisser (climbing Nisse/Gnome) who are cut from hardboard, or the Nisse can be mounted to paintings and bookshelves. This unique Danish tradition started in the early 20th century.
- Julehjerter and tin Yule-hearts are handmade decorations which are hung in the Christmas tree. Children as well as older members of the family also do make these hearts of shiny paper in many colors.
In many families they also did cut paper snowcrystals (See: Cutting paper Snowcrystals and cutting 3-D snowcrystals), to hang in the Christmastree or for the windowsn.
Even more winter symbols were the polar bears, the icicles, snowmen and even penguins. They were first made to hang in the tree, later there came also larger versions that you could put down somewhere.
And of course, Santa Claus, his sleigh, the reindeer and mini presents are much sought after.
The more beautiful the decoration, the more one tends to like to show to others. And so there came also decorations for outside the House.
Kravlnisser - Climbing Nisse

Xmas house decoration

Santa Claus - the tradition and the figure:

Santa Claus:
His names:
Santa Claus and Nick St. Nick, Nicholas, Nicholas St. Nicholas and Nikolaus are derived from Saint Nicholaas (Sinterklaas and Sankte Claus). Kriss Kringle comes from Kristkindle, the names Father Christmas, Pre Nol, pappa Nol and der Weihnachtsmann are derived from the eponymous figures based on the Yule man and from the Spirit of Christmas. (See the page about the History of Santa Claus). Christopher Christmas comes from and mixing of the names of Father Christmas, Kriss Kringle and St. Christopher the nowadays patron saint of travellers. MIND!: In the early times Saint Nicholas was also considered to be the patron saint of travellers, therefore confusing there names in that point was an easy made mistake.
In Denmark, Santa Claus also is still called the Julemandenx (literally "Yule Man") and he is supposed to come in a sled pulled by a reindeer, with gifts for the children. He is aided by his Yuletide group of Gnome, also called julenisser (or simply nisser), which according to traditional lore live on our attics, in our barns or other hidden places.
The names Father Time and Father Frost are mistakenly used also, but these are really other figures with a very different function. It is true that it is Father Frost, who in Russia brings gifts around Christmas, but there is not one fairy tale or Sage or Mythological story, in which Father Frost is something else as (a friendly) King Winter, and so is there also no one fairy tale, sage or Mythological story in which Father Time is something else is as the guardian of the time, unless that exception where he is seen sometimes as the Death. Buth Death is not one of the First-born Fairies, like for example Father Time, the Sandman, The Oak King and Mother Earth.
His appearance:
The appearance Santa Claus and some of the Customs are largely based on the Julenisse, a Scandinavian Gnome race, which brings children gifts at the Feast in the middle of the winter, the "Midtvintersblot" or "Jol". These Julenisses are a GNOME race. In English they are called Gnomes or Leprechaun. Of course, Santa has also taken over the externals of Father Christmas, Pre Nol and the Weihnachtsmann. Many of the appearance of these three, however, was derived from the looks and clothing of the Nisse, like the beard and mustache, hat, the boots and the Nordic clothing with wide belt. Thus through them, Santa has that also from the Nisse. But Father Christmas, Pre Nol, der Weinachtsmann did add things, such as for example Fur (often light brown, very occasionally white) to their jacket, hat and boots, the long fur-lined cloak (light brown fur) which was hooded (nowadays often a short shoulder cape), and on their hat the Elves-ornament (magic jewel with Snow Crystal) and/or Holly and/or Mistletoe. Strait from the Julenisse (or Nisse), Santa Claus did take over the stocky, somewhat put body, the white beard and the mustache, and the typical hat. Father Christmas was before that time, for example, often long and slim. Also putting down cookies and milk on Christmas Eve is descended from the custom to put down bread, porridge and milk for the Gnomes.
It is said that Santa Claus has taken over the red color of his clothes of Saint Nicholas, but there is no evidence for. In fact there sooner is evidence to the contrary, namely that St. Nicholas has nothing at all to do with Santa wearing that color. Because St. Nicholas had been long known in America, (just look at the name of Santa Claus), before Santa Clausdid start to wear red clothes. If the color red of his costume would be based on Saint Nicholas cloak, then he would have immediately started wearing Red clothes. But the first Santa's often wore green and/or brown clothes (which were also Nisse colors) Much more likely is that the Red of Santa's clothing goes back on the red of the festive clothing of many Gnome-tribes and on the Red of the Jule colors. Also Thomas Nast which stood at the base of the red in Santa's costume, has that presumably copied from the clothing of the German Gnomes from the fairy tales of his youth.
On 1 January 1881, Harper's Weekly did publish what became the most know geworden Santa-image made by Nast, complete with large belly, an arm full of toys and pipe smoking! The image was original black-and-white, but in a colorized reprint Santa wore a red costume trimmed with white fur. This image of Santa in his red white clothes, was between 1900 and 1930 for several artists the most popular model for the Santa's they did draw.
Thomas Nast's Merry Old Santa
And of course, did Coca Cola contributed to the red/white color by from December 1930 on, having each year an in red/white dressed Santa in their December advertisements. That fitted namely very good with their firm's red and white colors. However, it is a common misunderstanding that Coca Cola did invent Santa Claus and his colors, and that they thereby would have the rights to Santa Claus (or his colors). The company has this misunderstanding standing upright for avery long time, pure for commercial interests. It's only been recently that they on their own site do admit that both Santa and his red costume has long existed before they started using him in their advertising. So, Let it now be clear once and for all, Santa and his red costume are not invented by Coca Cola and they are not the property of that company.

The bringing of gifts::
The Yule-man did not bring gifts for the children. The Yule-man got food and drinks in the hope that he would make it a good spring and summer, with good harvests and that many young stock would be born.
And then came St. Nicholas, whose legends told that he often helped children, e.g. by throwing money for a dowry inside the house through a window. But in those first centuries of the Saint Nicholas worship, there was not yet a annual visit, let alone of the annual gift-giving. Only when in the 14 century Saint Nicholas celebration was linked to the 'Innocents feast' (Childrenbisshopsday), then step by step a tradition of small gifts for children was born (the beginning was small rewards for conventschool pupils who had done their best). When this tradition finally in almost all of Europe had gotten a foothold, whereby St. Nicholas in the different countries also had several escorts/helpers (except in the Netherlands where Saint Nicholas came without companion/helper), then by the Reformation the Sinterklaas celebration was banned everywhere.
This was the time when Father Christmas, Pre Nol and der Weihnachtsmannx came forth. But also they brought in those first centuries of their existence not any gifts. Father Christmas and der Weihnachtsmann brought the 'Christmas Spirit' and Pre Nol came to punish the naughty children. All three of these Figures, who were actually still one-and-the-same, were what appearance and/or clothing did matter, heavily based on the Scandinavian form of the Yuleman and of that of the Scandinavian Nisses. At the end of the Reformation, was the Weihnachtsmann during his visit accompanied by the Kristkind (Kristkindle, usually depicted as a little angel), and it was that Kristkind (representing Christ) who brought gifts to the little children. This because the kids did miss getting gifts in December very much.
When in the early 19th century in America Santa Claus (Santa Claus) came on the stage, he got in the beginning the name of the German Saint Nicholas (Sankte Claus and St. a Claus) and he got an appearance composed of both a retired Dutch sailor and a Scandinavian Nisse.
Due to the Weihnachtmann stories of German immigrants and the customs of German and Scandinavisie immigrants began the Christmas-man (or Santa Claus as he was called then) gradually looking more and more on an older man and got his clothes more and more the appearance of Nisse clothing. And the combination of Saint Nicholas and the Kristkind who brought gifts, was responsible for that also Santa (Claus) brought gifts to the children. Just like Saint Nicholas did, Santa also brought the nice children toys and goodies and naughty children got nothing, or something less fun, like pieces of coal where you got dirty hands from.
The dropping cookies and milk on Christmas Eve for Santa comes from the all over Europe-spread custom of dropping bread, porridge and milk for the home-Nisse/Gnomes.
 Santa with Gifts - Weihnachtsman mit Geschenke

The coming down the chimney and the gifts in the socks or under the Christmas tree:
As already is told, the fire and/or the fireplace had an important place by the Yule-festival. If one then sat together around that fire, you'd also expect gifts (blessings) to come from the direction of that fire (just think of the idea that they had about the sparks of the Yule-log). So if the gifts should come from the direction of the fireplace/fire, then they had to come first from outside through the chimney to come in the houses. And then you needed something there to catch those gifts in, so the people hung their socks (stockings) by the fire or on the mantelpiece. With St. Nicholas it were/are the shoes that were set, for the why they were going to use socks in America, we have found no defined reason. There is a story this says that Saint Nicholas has brougth this custom with him from Bari (Italy), where a kind grandmother-figure did gifts in socks. But that seems very unlikely, because there never have been at St. Nicholas eve gifts in socks, but always gifts in shoes (even already in the 15th century). So why taken with him from Italy a custom with socks, but then for centuries not working with socks, and then suddenly in America working with Socks while he in Europe is still doing the gifts in shoes. Much more likely are the two assumption of J.W. Koning. The first is that it is probably added by Italian Immigrants, because the know it from the Grandmother-figur from Italy. The second is that it had a practical origin. Santa himself would have this tradition started, because some children had hung with Christmas cold en wet socks by the fire, and then Santa replaced those with warm new winter socks with a note that had the child's name on it. He also did stop the gifts in that sock or placed them on that sock. So the children could see for who it was and that the socks were also a gift. The children where he had done that, did hung the following year the socks their (Christmas) socks ready or near the fireplace. Other kids who did hear this started doing also and so could then the tradition of the socks hang in front of the fire being started. When we did ask J.W. Koning about these two options he stated: "Most likely it has been the first assumption, but the second one is the most charming one." Christmas stockings
And why than gifts under the Christmas tree? This is presumably by the thought that the gifts are from the blessings of the sparks of the Yule log. The Christmas tree with its lights then symbolizes the Yulelog with its sparks. So the presents under the tree should be blessed as much as they were blessed hanging by the fire. And Under the Christmas tree could be have seen as saver for very young kids as by an open fire.

The milk and cookies for Santa:
Because some people thought that Santa himself was an Elf or a Gnome, they put the traditional gifts for a Gnome down for Santa.
Santa does like a cookie himself and also likes milk (or chocolatemilk), but most of it he takes home to Gnomes who really love it. Mrs. Claus let Sanat watch his weight, so he rarely will take more then 1 cookie himself.

The other figures:

The Elves (Alvs), Gnomes, Cobolds, Hobgoblins and Dwarves (Dwarfs)
Several kind of Elves, Gnomes, Cobolds, Hobgoblins and Dwarves are associated with Santa Claus and the Christmas celelebration, or with Yule.
The distinction between these creatures, is not always clear to the humans. The nature spirits (Vaettir, means real friendship) can be divided into several races, including the Elves, the Fairies, the Dwarfs, the Gnomes (Gnomes, Nisses and Leprechauns), the Cobolds, the Goblins, the Giants and even the sir (Asen are old scandinavian gods). In translations was (and still iss !!) sometimes the name from one race used as name for another race (for example in America Cobolds on the North-pole insted or Gnomes). And sometimes due to population migration, the nature and customs of one race was switched with the nature and customs of a race from another region. In the age of the Viking the stories about the French Fairies and the characteristics of the Scandinavian Dwarves and Elves began to get mixed. In the thirteenth century the Vaettir started to shrink and an Elf of human size cringed to a knee-high Nisse or Gnome. By the movies about the "the Lord of the Ring" we know today that most Elves have human size and that a Nisse, a Gnome or a Leprechaun is something else as an Elf. Mind you!! There are also Elf races where the Elves are very small, for example the flying elfs like Tinkerbell from the Peter Pan story.

But how do you come to know, which of these races are the helpers of Santa Claus?
Therefore we will look first at the properties and appearance of this mythological races and also look at their skills and look at the differences between these races.
And then we wil compare this info with the info that we have about Santas helpers.

The Myhologiscal Races:

A fairy is a female mythological figure who possesses supernatural powers, mainly occurring in Celtic mythology. The modern depiction of fairies in children's stories represents an ' expurgated version ' of a once serious and even sinister folk tradition. The fairies of the past were feared as dangerous and powerful beings, who were sometimes friendly for people, but also could be cruel or vicious.
In the middle ages Fairies were also imaged as adult women in expensive robes with a simple wand with which they could do several things such as control and levitate objects, letting objects conjure up or dissappear and putting spells. Also, Fairies could inanimate things to life, as in the story of Pinocchio.
A fairy is also often represented as small beautiful creature with transparent wings and a light-colored robe, that's because Fairies can adapt their maximum size, in their smaller forms they mostly have wings (and are then sometimes mistaken for butterflies) and in their larger forms they have no wings. Fairies get their magic from the air, therefore they can fly without wings.
It is said that Fairies live in a Fairytale world (possibly derived from the Celtic Annwfyn and Tr na ng), but in addition also in relationship with the humans live. They can take people to their Fairyland, from where they are not able to return as long as they have food and drinks there. Usually they are not seen as dangerous, but in some stories there are Fairies that can be lethal, especially if people fall in love with them.
A Fairy

A Nymph (Oudgrieks: νύμφη: bride, veiled) is a being that lives in nature, and often is bound to a particular place or plant species.
The nymphs are differentiated to the different parts of nature, in which they live and work in:
- Hydriades:
The nymphs of the waters or hydriades, are in particular the nymphs of those waters, which are found on the Earth, the seas (Haliae, sea nymphs), the Lakes, rivers and streams (Potameides, sometimes also called syrenen) and the wells and fountains (Pegaeae). They are the beneficent feeding females of the plants, to whom they provide, what they may need to live. Through the plants they also feed the herds, the fish and thus also the people. In several legends is told, that children of the gods were entrusted to them for their education (for example, Dionysos).
- Oreads:
The Oreads are the nymphs of the mountains, but are sometimes also seen as the protectors of the whole mountain, which includes the nymphs of the valleys and gorges (Napaea).
- Dryads or Hamadryads:
The Dryads are forest nymphs. Some Dryads (at least the hamadryads) live in the trees themselves. Dies their tree, then they die too. Other Dryads live in symbiosis with their tree, the most time they have a more or less human form (girl/young woman), at full moon they must adopt their tree form 1 night long to maintain their magical life force through their roots. Without this 'charging' ritual they would die within the next month. A Dryad punishes those who cause damage to her tree. These nymphs are mainly classified on the tree species. So are the Hamadryads the patrons of the oak. The Meliae are the patrons of the es. The Epimeliads are the nymphs of the fruit trees. The Alseds are the nymphs of small groups of trees in general. Some Daphniads protect the laurel (bay leaf), others are dedicated to other, rarer species of trees.
The Nymph is a graceful girl, that in the religious ideas of the Greeks, was a personification of the life and restless efficacy, that there is in nature. The workspace of nymphs therefore extends throughout the whole nature. They can reveal themselves in the murmur of the wells and streams, as well as in the germinating plant life, in the forest and on the fields and meadows. She is a tender, sweet lady, who, though they are generally friendly towards the people, takes no delight in the nearness of human dwellings and the noise making daily activities of these. But is resting in the solitude of the forest and silentness of the mountain range, which provokes pondering to rest and sweet reverie. There she lives a cheerful, sociable life in caves and gorges, which she inhabits.
Sometimes she dedicates herself to the one or other useful work, then again she performs along with other Nymphs a graceful but exhaustive and people enchanting choral dances and sings merry, cheerful songs, or she dives under with her tender limbs in the sparkling foam of the lone wells and streams. They have the gift of prophecy and also they are friends of the song-and poetry, which is particularly the case with the Muses, originally nothing else as well-nymphs.
They get their magic directly (mountain nymph and Water nymph) or via their trees (Dryad) out of the water and the Earth.


Elves are sometimes also called Alver men (Alvermannen). In the Old Scandinavian (old Norwegian) they are called lfr (Alfar). An Elf or Alv is a mythical creature from Scandinavian, Celtic and Germanic mythology and is also in the European folklore considered to be a light-or nature spirit (guardian spirit) with supernatural powers. They are the oldest mythological people (even older as the aesir (Scandinavian gods). Therefore, they are also often called "the first" or the "First born". They are much more adept than people in most things, and they are mighty and wise
The Elves speak mostly Quenya and Sindarin. In the books of J.R.R. Tolkien ("The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings"), elves are the older children of Ilvatar, on people-looking creatures that never will die from old age but only if they did fall in a war (or fight) or are killed in an accident. But we did found also info that their maximum Earthly age would be around 800 years. The real elderly Elves are going (out themselves) to "the happy island", where they stays until the end of days. Returning from that island is not possible. This can be seen as return to their origin as well as going to their own afterlife. All the info that J.W. Koning did found, gave the same conclussion: Elves that did die on Earth can never go to the "Happy Island", So that does put some doupt by the Afterlife idea of hte Happy Island

The Scandinavian and Celtic mythology knew two types of Elves/Alves
- The Light elves, live in Alfheim
- The black elves (Svartalfer), live in Svartalfheim.

Light elves (old Norse Ljslfar) are in the Scandinavian mythology described as Alves, Who live as light-spirits or nature-spirits in the light (Daylight). Their function is to generate life anywhere. They are beautiful and have skin and hair in a light color and they represent the visible fertility of nature. They did exist already beforo there came the Asen (Scandinavian gods), but would later join the Asen as servants. The fertility god Freyr (function is similar to the Yuleman) was in charge of these creatures. They are the only one of the mythology races that do get their magic from all 4 existing elements. (fire, air, water and earth).
Svartalfer (black elves, is usually translated as Night Elves) are in the Scandinavian mythology the counterparts of the Light Elves. They look like humans and/or the Light-Elves, but mentaly they are as black as the night. They are called black Elves because their souls are black and they like to live in the dark. Their skin can be any color but never a bright color, so never clean white but smudly grey a.s.o..
The Svartalfer are often confused with the dwarves, and their empire with the realm of the dwarves, Nidavellir. Just like dwarfs they prefer to live in caves or under the ground. Still, there are clear differences. So are Dwarfs in contrast to Night-Elves generally benevolent. And dwarfs are normaly active during the day time where Night-Elves are normaly active in the dark (Night-time. In the English and European folklore Night Elves were called "Goblins", which translates as Imp, Troll, Orc and Ogre. These Imps are often stupid and underhanded and sneaky and have none of the skills of the Light Elves.
Nowadays we know that there are also subraces arisen by these two types of Elves.
Light Elf


Light-Elves (OldNorwegian Ljslfar)   The black Elves, Svartalfer
The Eledhel
(The Elves of the light)
live in Alfheim.
  The Moredhel
(the black Elves)
live in Svartalfheim.
The Taredhel
(The clans of the seven stars),
It is unknown where these did stay. Space travelers, perhaps? Another view is that they have spread over the 7 continents, however, in Europe there is not one more to find. And from the other Continents were never signals that they would live there.
The Glamredhel
(The insane Elves).
Presumably descendants of a mixed marriage between a Lichtelf and a Svartalfer. Because of their insane and aggressive behaviour they are classified to the Svartalfer.
The Ocedhel
(the Elves from over the Sea)
These are thus moved away from Europe. Some stories speak of a magical island, other theories say that means the other continents of the world. And that the magic island the final resting place is for all Light-Elves.
(Little Earthman)
Does Originate from the Svartalfer, but are no real Elves anymore. They are also called Half-Elves. In terms of physique they look more like a large Gnome or dwarf and live preferably under the ground.
They are probably an offspring from a mix between a SvartAlfer and a Goblin. Which could be the reason that they are often called Goblins by mistake.
The Anoredhel
(The Elves of the sun - also called the Guardian-Elves or Protector-Elves)
These are the Elves that we nowadays know all over the world.
There are many tribes or nations under the Anoredhel, from very small winged Elves like Tinkerbel, to Elves even longer as a human being and without wings but who can fly thanks to the magic fly powder.
 Orc or Ogre
prefer to live in swamp regions.

prefer to live in the mountains and other 'stony' regions.

They are both presumably an offspring from a mix between a SvartAlfer and a Dwarf

After the Christianization of the Vikings, with which also hit their Mythology moved into oblivion, the English Imp did still exist, but his malice weakend over time, until he was just an annoying fool/joker. As the name little Earthman suggests, these Imps prefer to live below the ground or in caves. The name Elves (night elves) is nowadays almost never used anymore for the Imps. More correct is then to call them Half-Elves.


Elves (Light-Elves thus!) live, depending on which Elves-tribe they are, usually in forests, hills, meadows, flowers, blossom, near rivers and wells, but sometimes also underground (such as in burial mounds).
In contrast to the sometimes silly Elves in fairy tales (presumably were then Imps or other Earth-man-like creatures meant) are Elves smart and admirable beings, the length varies from breed to breed and ranges from ca 10 cm (as Tinkerbel at Peter Pan) into somewhat longer than a human. The smaller breeds usually have wings, the larger breeds never.
An Elf can be so old that people think they are immortal (unless they die by disease, accident, war or as they are tired of living). They are typically depicted as young men and women with an almost supernatural beauty.
Depending on their race they have blonde (sometimes even white!) hair and a pale almost translucent skin, or brown hair and a skin color as the people of Northern Europe, or black hair and a skin color as the people around the Mediterranean. But J.R.R. Tolkien is right, the varieties with greater body length seem in terms of physique and looks very much like the people, just with some sharper drawn faces, pointears and actually never a smiling face.
Sometimes the Elves (or Alverman) in stories do look like a leprechaun, a fairy or a nymph. In the last 2 cases, the Elv has than wings. That is maybe due to the fact that the Elves-races with a smaller body length do look indeed on them. According to the Germanic mythology the Ondine (Water nymph) is even related to both the Elves and Fairies. In the Celtic and Irish mythology the Sdhe is know. This Elves-nation is small in stature and some tribes have wings. The Sdhe like to keep impressive parades, Elves parades. The horses of the Daoine Sidhe tribe are famous all over the world as well as the reindeer of the Scandinavian Hulder-Elves. (Hulder means guardian, shepperd, protector, the word Hulder comes just as maiden name Hilda from the Scandinavian Hulda).
Elves are righteous and possess great wisdom and extraordinary skills, they are generally much more talented than humans in the field of visual art, music, dexterity and language and the handling and raising animals. They also have a vast knowledge of the world of plants. They are usually benevolent and help the human, who they see as a young race that still need a lot of guidance.

In the English folklore Night Elves were "Goblins", which was often translates as Imp and as Orc or Ogre. There is a fault in this. Imps and Goblins are both Earth creatures, But were the Imps, the Trolls and the Orc/Ogres do originate from the Svartalver, the Goblins do not. They are an autonomous race like Elves, Gnomes a.s.o..
After the Christianization of the Vikings, with which also their Mythology became forgotten, the Night-Elves often also dissappeared from the mythological stories. Just like the Ogre/Orc also the English Goblin did still remain. The Ork/Ogre variant remained malicious, maybe a kinship with the Trolls? But by the Goblins the malice did vanish in the course of time, until they were just annoying pranksters anymore. The Goblin gets the little bit of magic that he has from the Earth. In looks they are very simmilair to the Gnomes. In other things they are very similair to Dwarfs, they live around Mountains.

A Hobgoblin comes from the English and Scottish mythology. It's an early cross between a Gnome-breed and a Hob-breed.
Hobgoblins are small usually bare hairy creatures that do strange chores in and around the House as the family sleeps. They do the dusting and ironing and asking food as a reward. If onewould gave the creatures clothes, they disappeared for good. In many stories is told that the creatures than are offended, but in other stories is told that the creatures then arte too proud to work when they wear clothes.
Some people use the names 'Hobgoblin' and 'Goblin' mixed by each other, creating many misunderstandings that way, because they are certainly not the same.
A Hobgoblin looks a lot like a quiet brownie and a hob, but will tease the environment more. Hobgoblins can change their shape. As a Hobgoblin is offended, he changes in a tormentor. They are then difficult, frightening and sometimes even dangerous. It is very difficult to get rid of this bogeyman. They also get their magic from the Earth.

A brownie, brounie or urisk is a mythical creature. The creature is also called "brnaidh, ruisg were, or gruagach (Scottish Gaelic). The creature is well known in the folklore of Scotland and England (in England especially in the North, although the hob is more common there).
Brownies do chores in and around the House, but do not want to be seen. They live in a part of the House that is not in use. They work at night in exchange for food. They love porridge and honey. If the foodgifts become a form of payment, the creatures will leave (because they find that the owners of the House does make abuse of they).
The Brownie has similarities with the Gnome, the Scandinavian Tomte or Nisse, the Slavic Domovoi and the German Heinzelmnnchen. A Brownie used magic from the Earth.
The Hob is a small household spirit and is found in Northern and Central England. They live in or outside the home and do chores for the humans. If the creatures are offended, they can be very difficult. The Hob has similarities with a Brownie, Tomte or Nisse. A way to get rid of a Hob, was donating him new clothing. However, there is no way, without the help of elves, to get rid of a tricky angry Hob. The Hob pick up their little bit of magic from out the Earth.

Dwarves are mythological creatures that live on different places.
Dwarves are smaller than humans and are often described as thick. They also often have long beards. Dwarves are known for their handicraft arts and are particularly good (black) smith. Dwarves generally prefer to live underground and they are masters in mining and metalworking. They fight preferably with axes or battle hammers. They have a large survivability, they are hard, stubborn, steadfast in friendship and enmity, they can endure hunger, hard work and injuries better than other races. Their life span is long, much longer than that of humans, but they are not immortal. Their magic comes from the Earth and Fire.

A Cobold is a (often malignant) being (Earthman) that has simmilairities with a Gnome.
Cobolds are found in German and Scandinavian folk tales. There are several types of Cobolds, there are those who sometimes help the Humans, but the majority will bring the Humans nothing but trouble. A Cobold has magical powers which he get from the Earth-magic.
Often a Cobold stands for everything opposite to the (good) Elves, the Aircreatures, the nymphs (which live in water or plants) and Gnomes. The creatures can be change themselves into animals. They are thieves, they guide the dead (especially on 'all souls day' = Halloween). Cobolds do use Elvesfruit to lure people or animals to get them in their power.
Cobolds have similarities in behavior with other mythological beings. There are species that just like Gnome and Brownies can occur as House spirits in ordinary houses and protect the House, as a (natural) protective spirit, but there are also species that like dwarves lives in the mines and guard the ore layers. The metal cobalt owes its name to this. The Beaters or Knockers are usually friendly for miners, but very malicious against any unauthorized visitor to 'their' mine corridors and caves.
All Cobolds have in common that they are small and intelligent. They have also, of course, magical powers. If they favour a human as large exception, they can bring prosperity. But the one who has a quarrel or a figth with a Cobold, has a formidable opponent.
Sometimes Cobolds do swap their Baby with a human baby. The unsuspecting parents take care for this bay an educate d the (malicious) Coboldenbaby as their own child. Such a child is called a changeling and almost allways brings missfortune to the Human parents.

A Gnome, Nisse or Leprechaun is a mythological creature. This figure has starred in countless fairy tales (and other folk tales) spread all over the world.
In Netherlands and Flanders they are known as Kabouters, in Scandinavia as Nisse, in Great Britain as Gnomes or Pixies (Piksies), in Germany they are called Gnom or Heinzelmanchen and in Russia it is Domovoi. There are many other names fot hem all over the world.
- Gnome: the term was first used in the 16th century, they were then described as a kind of 'Earthcreatures' of approximately 1.3 feet in length that were extremely quiet.
- Kabouter: would come from the Germanic word kuba-walda ('House Guard') or by kuba-hula ('the House Helper'), which presumably comes from the German Koben ('stable, barn'), the English cove, Swedish kofve ('Room'), East middle Dutch cave ('hut, house').
According to tradition, they would be a very ancient race, that would be related to both the Elves and the Dwarves. Depending on the region where they occur according to the folklore, they differ in appearance and behavior and size. However, they have certain things in common:
- Their small stature and their ability to make themselves invisible for- or keep hidden to Humans.
- They choose to be around people and want to, so is told, for a small fee do loyal all kinds of chores.
- In case of poor treatment they can behave themselves as teasers or impose a penalty on that human, but they don't do that ver easely, and also their meaning behind it is that the Human then does behaved well, if the Human than does its best to get back being a good person, then they raised his sentence (just think of the story about Niels Holgerson).

Gnomes are also known as Alvermannekes, which have made space for the newcomers (humans). They therefore expect to be treated with respect. Their clothing has many green and brown (Sable colors) and red (Party color). Depending on to which tribe they belong, they can be 5.9 inch to 1.97 feet large. On old drawings and paintings there are no Gnomes with a brown or black skin; It almost always concerns white males with a pretty red nose. This was simply because the people in Europe and America hardly ever seen a Gnome with another skincolor, But just like with the humans there are Gnooms in all skincolor. Often, the clothes of the Gnomes do look somewhat medieval. Male Gnomes are usually portrayed with long, venerable, full beards, baker's cheeks and bulbous abdomens. A Gnome male wears almost always woolly boots and a wide belt around his waist. Female Gnomes always carry skirts. According to most stories Gnomes can be much older than Humans. They cite their healing magic out of Earth and water (so also out of snow!)
Gnomes maintain a very close contact with Humans and animals. They are usually friendly towards the Humans. Usely they perform all kinds of chores for the Humans and and expect some food supply in return. Humans do believe that Gnomes do their chores better if you reward them with milk and/or bread. In addition, people believe that Gnomes can be 'lured' by milk and bread. Also beer is mentioned as helpfull by 'luring'.
Christmas Gnomes

Christmas Gnome

Santas Helpers:

From the properties and skills of Santa's helpers you can distract much which can be compared with the mythological races to conclude which of the above Nations are actually Santa Claus helpers.
Giants, vampires, centauers etc. we have not discribed here because it is clear anyhow that Santa's helpers are not from that corner.
Fairies life most time in their own fairy tale world and will really not remain in one place day after day and still do the same job. Also they want to be always their own boss and rather prefer letting others jump on their bidding, as being themselves in the service of another.
Nymphs find it much too cold at the North Pole.
Imps, Trolls and Orc or Ogre fall off anyway by their malice.
Goblins, Hobgoblins and Kobolds are soon on their peeved, with many children they would soon be wrangling. And with Kobolds would you risk that they, instead of bringing gifts, were going to steal the child.
Brownies and Hobs love porridge and honey and not of porridge and cookies, which Santa's helpers do love.
Dwarves are hard workers who give nothing to the cold, but they prefer to work with stone and iron, so they would sooner make swords for the kids as dolls. Dwarves are also generally not real friendly towards Humans, although they sometimes make an exception (e.g. for Snowwhite)
Which leaves us only the Elves and the Gnome as possible candidates.
Gnomes have the skills to make all sorts of beautiful things and they have the patience and the pleasure of doing that day-in and day-out. They could also capable to train the reindeer, but they lack the knowledge of the Elves on the fly powder, and they do not like to be in large crowds of Humans, because they are afraid that they will be overrun.
Elves can also very well train the reindeer (In fact they are the absolute best for that job), and they also have the skills (Air Magic) and the knowhow to make the fly-powder. But they lack the patience to make the same things day in and day out. They do like though to invent new things that can be made by the gnomes, and they very much like to see and to learn new things. So going everywhere with Santa would be right up their hand.

And then you have to conclude that he is helped by both Elves and Gnomeb. Also because these Nations are both one of the few mythological Nations who like to be close to Humans or live near Humans, and which also have long been known to be often helping People (think House-gnomes, House-nisses, home and garden gnomes etc).
To which should be noted that most of the Gnome who live and work at the North Pole, where they are making and rapping the toys that goes to the children, are of a Gnome-tribe which has a great length and a thicker figure, wherefore they are better equipt against the cold. And the gnomes there who did come from a warmer part of the world, just dress up a bit warmer.
The Gnomes that spread around the world do help Santa and do supply him with information, are usually of the tribes with smaller length, such as the Scandinavian Nisse or Tomte. Also Dutch Kabouters, the Flemish Alvermannekes, the German Wichtel and Heinzelmanchen, the French Lutin, the Spanish Duende and the Jlasveinar from Iceland are associated in that way with Santa Claus.
In Germany there is the custom that during the Christmas period, the Wichtels provide the presents for the persons who draw lots with eachothers names.

The Reindeer and the Sleigh:

The Sleigh:
Father Christmas and the Weihnachtsmann appeared mostly just on foot, later they had sometimes a packmule, Pre Nol came in the beginning riding on a donkey, later he came on foot and then had a packmule with him. Also Saint Nicholas used early in his career a donkey as ride-and/or pack animal. Later Sint Nicolaas moved over on a horse and again later he became that famous white horse which the children called "de Schimmel" ("the White"). Many years later Saint Nicholas revealed the real name of the white horses he is using, namely "Amerigo" in the Netherlands and "Goed weer vandaag" ("Nice Wether Today" or sometimes "Bad Wether Today") in Belgium.
There's is a story that Saint Nicholas in America even once appeared in a horse-drawn carriage. Most likely however, was that the first appearance of Santa Claus. Santa Claus came in the beginning still from the northern forests and horse-drawn carriage was the best way to do so. When the Hulder-Elves did start to help him after his early days, the first thing they dis was putting their Reindeer for the carriage. And when Santa moved to live further north, on the tundra where the Hulder-Elves lives, they replaced the carriage by one of their sleighs. It is much easier to glide with a sleigh through the snow and the air, as it is to drive with a carriage trough that. That was in the beginning still a standard open sleigh as you also see behind sled dogs. The 2 sleighs with which Santa Claus nowadays does make his Christmas trips, are made especially for him by the Gnomes, according to a special design of the Elves.
Because the Gnomes did mix fly powder through the paint (and the lacquer) of both sleighs, these sleighs can float and with the reindeer as driving powers these sleighs can also fly.
Santa in Sleigh
Santa in a sleigh with 2 Reindeer

The Reindeer:
About how many Reindeer Santa Claus has, there was in the beginning much misunderstanding. First, it was thought that he had only one reindeer for the sleigh, later peolple thought that there were more, where the number varied from 2 to 12. It was not until circa 1822, that people finaly noticed that he had eight Reindeer for his sleigh. And even then the misunderstanding did existed that would be all Reindeer that Santa had. In reality, the Hulder-Elves do have a lot of Reindeer herds and they have a small herd of around 150 pieces of the very best of those Reindeer available to Santa. And no, these are not Reindeer of a flying Reindeerbreed as some people think, but they are the very, very best of first-class Reindeer that Hulder-elves are breeding. And they are specially trained to be able to pull the sled through the air, using fly powder to fly. And the Hulder-Elves choose each year from that special 'Santa's Herd" the best ones to pull the sled. They use 2 teams and 2 sleighs and some reserve reindeer. It is therefore also only this small selection (about 28 reindeer) that in December is housed at the North Pole to train there with the Sleighs and hence start there on Christmas Eve for their trips around the world.
Santa in sleigh with 4 Reindeer
Santa in a sleigh with 4 Reindeer
Santa with Sleigh and 6 Reindeer
Santa in a sleigh with 6 Reideer

The names of the Reindeer:
According to a Scandinavian custom, also the reindeer of the Elves generally get names that says something about their birth, their appearance, their character or their lineage. A little doecalf (girl)that is born in a meadow full of daisies that will probably be called Daisy, Willow was born under the willow trees on the edge of a stream. Oakleaf is a bull calf (baby boy) that has a light spot in the form of an oakleaf on his forehead. Rainbow is the daughter of Cloud (Bull) and Sunlight (Doe) and her name refers thus to her parents (when the sun shines on a rain cloud, you get a Rainbow), and Rascal had already at birth a very naughty look-out.
This names system works fine, there can always an appropriate name be found for a newborn calf. And Santa and the Elves also know exactly how all Reindeer are called.
Yet there a downside to this, had a child a spend lot of effort be having learned the names of the reindeer that one year pulled the sleigh (and often such a child has than just learned the names of one of the 2 teams) and then the following year there were other reindeer for the sleigh, or the child did meet the other team. That gave then confusion, the names the child had learned suddenly were not right anymore. Parents could also not know in advance what the names of the reindeer for the sled would be and therefore could also not help their children.
Santa Claus was already for quite a while puzzling about a solution, when there appeared a poem in 1822 with 8 Reindeer names that did very nice fit together and thereby were easy to learn (and remember) for the children (and their parents). "That's it," said Santa Claus: "From now on we give the reindeer that pull the sleigh, fixed working names and we will call them always by those worknames as long as they mounted for the sleigh or do visite the people in other way.
Those work names are based on the poem 'The Night Before Christmas , that appeared in 1822 and was made into a film in 1905. And now does anyone know the names of the reindeer to the sleigh'.
So it doesn't matter if it's the 1st team or the 2nd team is or the reserves, nor how the reindeer are called if they walk on the tundra in the summer. As soon as Santa is on the way with his reindeer, they are from front(=farthest from the sleigh) to rear (closest to the sleigh) and from left to right thus called:
Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen (In the poem it were original Dunder/Donder and Blixem).
Santa with Sleigh and Reindeer on a rooftop

On a trip in 1939 there came a ninth (very young) Flying Reindeer named Rudolph (first he was called Rudie, what impetuous means, just think of the American word Rawdy) but because of the gleam/glow of his nose (which usually happend if he was worried, or if he was shy) made the other Reindeer there soon Rudie-glow or/and Rudglow and when a couple younger Reindeer pronounced that somewhat unclear, it sounded like Rudolph and then Santa did say: From now on it will remain that.
Robert L. May made a poem about him: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and later even a song with the same title was made (sung by Gene Autry). Rudolph is partly due to the song is so well known, that he was regulary is added as ninth reindeer to the nameslist of the sleigh team.
The glowing of Rudolph his nose:
Rudolph his nose sometimes gives a bright red light. It used to be that almost always so, but because he now knows why that is, he can control it himself. So you see him now also very often with a regular black nose, like the other Reindeer.
The story goes that when Rudolf was born, that this was on an evening with much Northernlight. His parents therefore wanted to call him first Northernlight or Northern Star (wich was a guidingstar for sailors), but because they then saw that his nose gently glowed Red, they realized that these names would seem just a worse Nick-name, therefore it was when Rudie, as a reference to his boisterous character.
Northern lights creates by airborne fluorescent Stardust particles. When Rudolph immediately after his birth impetuous began to breathing, the did get by accident quite a few star powder in his nose. This dust became rooted in his nose and has a fluorescent effect. In medical terms this is known as 'Nasus-Rosus-Fluorensis (pronounced as "NOO-suss ROSE-ee-us FLU-o-ren-sie-is", with emphasis on the capital letters). That condition makes that his nose shows a bright red light when he's excited (or impetuous) or when he is very shy or if he is very uncomfortable (for example if he is bullied).
It is exactly the same as in people who blush if they are shy or if they feel uncomfortable. It does not hurt, it does not harm, so nothing to worry about. And, as you know from the story about Rudolph, it can sometimes be very useful. His glowing nose has shown Santa many times the way in a snowstorm or a foggy night. Santa Says: "Rudolph is our private guiding Northern Star".
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

Mrs Claus:

There are many stories about where she comes from and what her first name is, but nowhere was an established fact told. With the knowledge that we have now obtained (and you will soon have also) you notice that some stories (oral, book or movie) tell only part of the truth, others are even completely wrong.
Example: The wife of Santa Claus in 1849 is first mentioned in the short story "A Christmas Legend" (1849), by James Rees. Mrs. Claus has multiple first names and James Rees did found Gertrude the most beautiful. So he reported that Mrs. Claus is called Gertrude Claus. Not quite false, but then again it is also not quite 100% true.
Others changed the German name Gertrude into the Dutch version Gretel.
Another story reported that they called Mary. That is true, but that is also just one of her first names.
Yet another story says that it was a princess who was called Anwyn. And that Mrs. Claus therefore also often put her signature as Mrs. A. Claus. A very nice fairy tale, but so not true. (The signature is correct but that has a different cause)
And so there are also stories about that she had the name Jessica or Jessica Mary were her mother her had given her 2nd name (Mary) named after the mother of Jesus. Again, part truth and part not true.
In short, there are many names mentioned in stories, books and films, but never the full 'true' story.
mrs. Claus

We did go with all the stories and all the names that we had collected, to the oldest Elf in Santa Ville and did asked him how it really is. "What is true and what is not true of all that we have collected."
After it had studied everything firm, he gave the following statement:
Official North-pole News (ONN) "It happened in the early 1800's (that's about 2 centuries ago): The mother of the future Mrs. Claus, was called 'Jessica Holly Winter' and was married to a 'Nol Christmas', a young sailor. When they got a little daughter, Nol wanted the girl to be named after both of their mothers 'Hilda' and 'Gertrude'. But Jessica who always was afraid that her husband would get lost to the sea once, wanted to give her daughter the name of a Patron Saint and she therefore wanted to name her 'Mary'. After a lot of back and forth talk, later with the parents of Jessica and Nol in it too, they finaly found an agrement. The girl would be named as well after her great-grandmothers (who both were called 'Anna', after Saint Anne), as well after the sacred 'Maria' and also named after both her grandmothers.
And thus got the little daughter the christian names: 'Anna Mary Hilda Gertrude'.
In full (with her familyname to it) it was thus Anna Mary Hilda Gertrude Christmas (A.M.H.G. Christmas).
This was a solution where everyone was very happy with it, and which worked for many years, although due to both 'OLd Anna's' most of the time she was just called by Anna (call sign) or 'Anna Claus' (so A. Claus).
By the age that she did go to a 'normal' school, her ful name were official noted, So on every list she stood as 'A.M.H.G. Christmas'. Because some older children did tease her with that, who than did say: There comes A Merry Holy Gracefull Christmas, she started to use the name of her mother to get rid of th name-jokes. When later she married Santa Claus, she did call herself Mrs Claus. But if you address her by one of her 4 official names or called her Jessica, sure she will listen."
Official North-pole News (ONN)

The Old Elf added: "And if this Mrs. Claus signed her signature, then she often wrote Mrs. A Claus indeed (but which A came from Anna and not from Anwyn) and also the next Mrs. Clauses did use this signature very often, due to its recognizability. In fact Many of these Following mrs. Clauses did addopt one of the 4 names of A.M.H.G. Christmas to be her new Nick name. So even the present Mrs. Claus will listen and react to you, if you call her by one of these names".

The Residence:

Children, of course, wanted to know where Santa Claus actually came from. Where he lived when he's not busy with the bringing of the presents? These questions were the rise to the legend that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, where the Christmas gifts workshop also was established. In 1869 there was a booklet published called 'Santa Claus and his Works' written by George P. Webster. There was a poem in it containing the following lines:

"His home through the long summer months, you must know,
Is near the North Pole, in the ice and the snow."

It's the same story as what you guys could read on our site about other so-called facts, again here is a mixture of half-fictions and half-truths.
Santa Claus did live first in the northern forests, (such as the German Weihnachtsmann still says: "Von drausen aus die Walder da komme ich her ...").
He Later moved to the still lying further north Tundra because of the Reindeer that he for his sleigh. This Tundra are mainly located in Lapland (Which lies within the Arctic circle and runs from the Top of Norway, via the Top of Sweden and the top of Finland into Russia.)
So yes, Santa does live in the summer near the North Pole, Beacause allregions within the Northern Arctic Circle is actually called North Pole.
But that's not in the snow or ice, because then the reindeer could not find any food. So NO, he does not live on the Center of the North Pole in the summer. A fact that humans for the first time realised in 1925. When several newspapers wrote the "shocking news" that Santa Claus could not live at the North Pole because the reindeer can not graze there. Well Santa had never said that he lived AT the North Pole, but always that he lived close to the North Pole. It took another 2 years before the people understood that most of the year he lives Lapland, tracking with his reindeer herd.
"Uncle Markus", Markus Rautio, the host of the popular "children's Hour" on the Finnish public radio, unveiled the big secret for the first time in 1927: Santa Claus lives in Lapland, at the mountain Korvatunturi-"Ear Fell".
This mountain, which is close to Finland's border with Russia, does indeed seem a bit like an ear of a Hare. A fact that some people give the thought that Santa Claus uses this ear to hear everything what the children around the world do. Of course that's a nice and romantic story, but the truth is just that he hears everything from Gnomes who live near to the children. And Santa does not live IN or AT the mountain, but in a Elf-village in a hidden valley at the feet of the Mountain Korvatunturi. In addition to the group of Snowgnomes which lives indeed close to the North Pole in a hidden Gnome-village (Polar City), where the workshops are to make the toys and where also Santa's december post office and the stable for the sleigh-reindeer are, there are still many more Gnomes (all Gnomes worldwide actually) that help Santa. They do this, by giving him information about all children (large and small, old and young) of the whole world.
Map from Korvatunturi


Residences of van Santa Claus In spring, summer and part of the autumn Santa Claus does indeed live usually in a hidden Elves village (Santa Ville) more or less at the foot of the Korvatunturi-"Ear Fell". But he and Mrs. Claus do track in the Summers also with the Hulder-elves and the reindeer over the tundras, therefore he has also a house in a Elves-village near Dalarna in Sweden. For his holiday (January or February) there is a summer house in a Gnome-village near Uummannaq in Greenland, which is part of the Danish Kingdom. And then Santa also has an Office (Santa Claus Office) in the Finnish town of Napapiiri, near Rovaniemi and an (Post)Office in the small town 'North Pole' in Alaska. And from just before the beginning of Advent up to and including the first Sunday in January Santa Claus does live in PolarCity and then also his reindeer teams live there for their last training weeks and to get the fly powder through their food.
It was only since 1950 that people noticed that Santa had an Office in Napapiiri, and because visitors to that village came mostly through the airport of Rovaniemi, Rovaniemi did build in 1985 in a Santa Claus theme park, called Santa Claus Village. As you see, again almost the correct name, but also again just not completely correct, and that's a good thing too, because otherwise you would get confused with the real Santa Ville. In that theme park Santa has a post office (Santa's main Post Office) which is the only Santa's post office is where both humans and Elves work. Santa's main Post Office in Santa Claus Village is one of the post offices where the children can send their letters and wish lists for Santa Claus to. The humans and Elves in that Post Office make sure that all maill will reach Santa and that each sender will get a response.

Sending a letter to Santa:

In the past, Scandinivische children did sent their post to Santa by burning them in the fire. The smoke than brought the letter to Santa. Nowadays there are certain postal addresses for this, and also children can even write directly to Santa on some internet sites and get answers back. And of course, you could also leave your a letter laying clearly visible somewhere in your House, the Gnome(s) in or near your house will take away him in the night and make sure that he arives at Santa's desk. And of course they would like a cookie or a glass of (chocolate) milk for their trouble.

Transport Logistics

(Or how can Santa bring so many gifts in the sleigh and how can he do it all in 1 night.):
After he laid all the stories side by side that does tell something about that, laid, He then looked where they say more or less the same and Marked that. and after deleting some really impossible or false (and/or illogical) things, and adding the reluctant Elf-infos he did get on this matter, J.W. Koning reviewed and compared the remaining info again and did come to the 2 following conclusions:
1. The space in the Sleigh and/or in Santa's Sack:
Santa's lovely red Christmas Sack is a super magical bag, of which there are only 3 in the world. Santa owns 2 of them, and the third is owned by Douwe Dabbert (a Dwarf), this one is much smaller (model knapsack). The magic of these bags is reflected among other things in the following ways:
A. That you can put everything you want in that bag, without him ever being totally full. You can do this without that the bag will be increasing. That is the reason that Santa's Christmas Sack will always fit in his sleigh.
B. The bag will give back the things you have tucked in there at the time that you need them, so when the Santa wants to get the gifts for (for example) Jack, then all he needs do is to put his hand in the bag, to grab what he feels and to pull his hand out the Sack again, and Presto, there are indeed the gifts for Jack. Thereby he will never spend time searching for the right gifts and Jack will always get exactly what he wanted or that what he really needs.
C. If anyone else will look or grab in the bag without permison of the rightfull owner, then he will not see anything or find just unusable junk.
Douwe Dabbert with magical Knapsack

2. To do it all in 1 night:
And then there are all manner of wild stories how Santadoes this all in 1 night. In some stories Santa even let the time stands still or let the world turn slower and more of that impossible thus nonsensical things.
When according to J.W. Koning's second Conclussion it in reality is all so simple and so logical.
A. The world-time is divided in different time zones. Santa start each trip on the North Pole. And the North Pole is one of the only two places on Earth where all time zones converge and which therefore are present in each time zone. So changing the time zone at the North Pole (or on the South Pole), would take Santa less then a second, and if he does the changing in the direction against the rotation of the Earth that gives him an hour extra time, each time he does change the timezones this way. So the time zones help, because he makes his travels against the time displacement, it gives him more time bring to all the gifts in one night. To be precise, he then has almost 1 evening and 1 nights .... This is because as the day is on one side of the world, then it's evening or night on the other side. ... So he first delivers the packets in the time zones on one side of the world (where it is evening or night) and afterwards in the time zones on the other side of the world when it's there then evening or night. Therebfore he does not need to do it in just the 8 hours of one night. You do Understand this? Map with the timezones
B. So as we all know is a straight line is the shortest path between 2 points. That is why Santa travels not just randomly from place to place (the one in the East, the next in the West, than in the South and then again in the West etc), but all the time his plant route from North to South (or from South to North as he passed the South Pole), He remains thus in 1 time zone until he is on the South Pole (which is the second place on the Earth that is present in all time zones). There he goes the next time zone (think of the hour time savings) and takes in that time zone the route to the North, to the North Pole.
At the North Pole awaits him than a equipped new team of strong and lightning-fast reindeer and a new sleigh (remember he has 2 sleigh and 2 teams!) with a magical Sack full of packages (Remember he has 2 magical Sacks also!), he switches quickly by sleigh and chooses the following time zone (hour profit!) and then of goes again in full speed southward. And so it goes then for almost 24 hours.
Santa around the world

C. Santa just need to have the packs for 1 trip (North-South-South-North) in his Christmas Sack (something for which the Elves will very carefully take care, they check the list several times!)
And Santa does need every time only 1 magical Sack on each trip. Once Santa has left with his sleigh, the Elves will with lightning speed and super carefully load the other bag full of suits and then put that in the 2nd sleigh, so all this ready for Santa when he comes back from a trip. Santa lands, switches to the full sleigh with the fresh Reindeer and away he goes again. This goes on all Christmas Eve and Christmas Night, until Santa has delivered the parcels in all time zones.
D. On these journeys Santa does not visit all children in their homes, for many children it is not neccessarily that he does come in, because they know that they are sleep then anyway and that they will not notice him. For them it is sufficient enough if he just throws the parcels through the chimney. Inside the house the House-Gnome (and otherwise the Elves magic) will ensure that the parcels land on the right place(s). And then there are also countries and cultures where they do celebrate the visit of Santa Claus on a different day or evening, so there Santa does deliver the gifts also on another day and in another way.
E. And Yes, thanks to the magic fly powder the reindeer do sometimes fly with supersonic speed, and that helps also, of course.

Santa Claus and Coca-Cola

There is with some people the misunderstanding that Santa Claus his clothes would be invented by Coca Cola and there are even people who believe that Coca Cola in fact also invented Santa Claus that they therefore have all right on Santa, his names and his looks!
As you can read on our site on the Page about the history of Santa Claus and on the page about the tradition around Santa Claus and his visits, the facts prove the contrary.
Long before the Coca Cola company started to exist, the Yuleman and PreNol, Father Christmas and even their successor, Santa Claus did allreay exist. So Coca Cola can therefore never have invented Santa Claus.
And although Santa Claus during the Victorian time wore Clothing in different colors (green, blue with mostly brown fur) he already wore also costumes in the same colors with white fur and even sometimes a red costume with white fur. Later when Mrs. Claus became in chrg over his suit, it becamee red and white all the time, because these are the favorite colors of Mrs. Claus.
So when in 1931 Coca Cola did start to use a image of Santa in their advertising, Santa Clauswore a red costume with white fur already for decades.
So this Red/White combination is also not invented by Coca Cola. Today, Coca-Cola admits the fact that Santa already wore a red costume usually, o color combination which was announced long before by Thoma Nast and not by them! We do admit that they used very beautiful images of Santa in their advertising, from which, of course, Santa himself holds the portrait right. At least that's so according to European regulations, and because Santa is registered in Europe (otherwise you may have no Office in Finland) therefore goes for his image (portrait) rights the European regulations! Of course, Coca Cola always claimed that they hold the portrait right on their images (giving the impression that they hold the rights on Santa to), and of course they have the copyright on those creations, but the portrait right rests, without conclusive permission from Santa, only by Santa and his heirs. Therefore Santa can also give someone permission to use those images in combination of info about him, his history and/or customs around his work and visites.
If you want to see most of the Coca Cola's advertising posters featuring a Santa image, please check Here
Santa by Sundblom

Source refering:

Karl Meisen : 'Nikolauskult und Nikolausbrauch im Abendlande' 1931 ,
The Brittish St. Nicholas Center: ,
The Dutch EnSintClopedie on the Sintforum ,
Jef de Jager: ,
The Friends of Sint Nicolaas: ,

and last but not least the 'Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus Archive - Sinterklaas en Kerstman archief' from J.W. Koning
which brought us so many special facts
and did lead us so very often back to the right direction were other sources did go astray.

If you borrow or copy knowhow/info from other sources, for example for a non commercial project, lecture or a scription,
then it show good manors to refer to those sources.
And we also expect you, when using info from our site, to refer to our sources.
(This for so far as they have to do with borrowed/copied part of our site.)
For commercial projects you must have a written permission from us and above that a written permission from our sources as far as the have a right on the info on our site.


The website is an initiative from private persons. The object with this site is to offer non commercial information about several aspects about the Histories of St Nicholas and Santa Claus and the believes and festivals around them and the customs belonging to those festivals. So parents and childeren will find it easier to keep the stories alive.

Disclaimer about the info:
This website is only ment to give parents and childeren correct informations about Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. The informations on this site are put together most carefully. But it is possible still that some of our information is; -not complete, not according to present (or newer) info, or could be explained in diverent ways, or even seems to hold uncorrect facts. We take no responcebility for the Juristic correctness of the info we have presented here, nor fot the effects of the here presented info and products, and also not for eventual demage (direct or indirect) which did happendgeleden as a result from using our informations. Using our informations is complete for the risk of the user.

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