Christmas is Jól (Yule) and Santa is Óðinn!

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In pre-Christianization Norse culture, Óðinn has over 200 different names. One of them is Jólnir (Yule-figure), and another one Jólafaðir (Yule-father).

Óðinn also has a long white beard and two ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory). 

Around the winter solstice, he leads a ghostly procession, Ásríða (Åsgårdsreia, Oskoreia, or The Wild Hunt), across the winter skies, on his 8-legged horse, Sleipnir. Sleipnir is also known to feast on the entrails of Óðinn’s enemies, which gives him a blood covered red snout.

During The Wild Hunt, children leave sugar and hay in their shoes for Sleipnir, by the chimney or window. Óðinn, to thank them, in turn leaves them small gifts. Gifts can also be left to children by Tanngrisnir (teeth-barer) and Tanngnjóstr (teeth grinder), Þórr’s goats.

Around Jól (Yule) time, a ham is also eaten, representing either Sæhrímnir (pig eaten every nigh in Valhöll and brought back to life again the next day), or Gullinbursti (gold mane), the boar of Freyr (Vanir for virility and prosperity).


Fast forward to the 19th century and present day, well after our forced Christianization, and we now have a character called Santa (like Óðinn) who has a long white beard, and two black helpers (like Óðinn’s ravens)… Around the winter solstice, he travels across the night skies too, pulled by 8 reindeers (in reference to his 8-legged horse). One of them, Rudolph, has a red nose… Like Sleipnir. Children leave goodies as well for Santa, and to thank them, Santa leaves gifts in their shoes/socks in return by the chimney. All over Scandinavia, we also still eat a ham for Yule. Even at the buffet on DFDS (ferry service between København and Oslo).

Sounds familiar?? ;-)

Fuck “keeping Christ in Christmas”! If anything should be kept in “Christmas”, it is Óðinn!

Christopher Bjørnsen

Tromsø, Norway