Before He Was Santa, Was He Sinterklaas?

Dutch Influences in the Story of Santa

It is believed that Santa is a derivative of the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, which is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas was described as a serious-looking older man with a long white beard, who wears a red cape, rides a white horse and carries a large red book filled with names of children who have been naughty or nice. Sinterklaas was said to travel with an apprentice called Piet.

Before the Book of Naughty and Nice

Santa’s helpers either listened at the chimney or on rooftops. Then Santa’s helper would report back to Santa the goings on in the homes. With this information Santa would decide who was worthy of a reward. In some stories, it was his helper Piet, in other stories it was two ravens named Huginn and Muninn, who listened on Santa’s behalf. When the focus shifted to children is unknown, but it is possible that when the fable of Santa was Christianized, it may have been in that time. Eventually, instead of Santa’s helpers listening for Santa, it was inferred that Santa, simply knew if a child was naughty or nice and Santa kept track of it in his large red book.

From Coins to Toys the Scoop on What Santa Delivered

Early reports on Santa, state that he put coins in shoes of the worthy as a reward for being good. At some point in the retelling of the of the story of Santa, the focus changed from the shoes of all worthy, to the shoes of children that were nice and not naughty. Then the reward changed from coins to gifts placed in the shoes of children. And then from gifts to specifically toys and the toys were placed under a tree or in places other than shoes.

The Transition from Horse to Santa’s Sleigh

A white horse represents wisdom and balance. From the retelling of the story of Sinterklaas, one can see why it was said that such a man rode a white horse. As the story of Santa was embellished to add that toys delivered by means of a chimney, the use of a horse to transport all the toys seemed less feasible. As the expectation that Santa delivered toys for delivered to all children grew, Santa needed a more stable mode of transportation, one that could navigate to all the places that Santa had to go, and could also hold the large sack of toys.

santa sleigh

Why Use Eight Reindeer to Pull Santa’s Sleigh?

Many accounts place the origin of the story of Santa in Northern Europe. Use of reindeer and a sleigh, supports this theory, as in that region, reindeer were herded and domesticated. It is believed that man has herded and domesticate reindeer for 270,000 years. In further support of the origination of the story of Santa, deriving in Northern Europe, Santa’s sleigh has a specific design and is made in the image of Nordic sleighs.

Why One Reindeer with a Red Nose?

With certain indigenous people the lead reindeer pulling the sleigh finds the way in a blizzard. And if the lead reindeer sneezes when crossing an iced over river, then the herder looks for another route over which to cross the river. We can see a correlation between this navigation method and the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It is not a far leap to move from a sneezing reindeer to one that has a red nose and leads Santa’s sleigh.