Santa Claus is a legendary, archetypal and mythic character, related to Christmas.
Although Santa Claus tradition has origins in northern Europe, it is popularized in the United States in the nineteenth century. It is called Father Christmas or Santa Claus in English, and Weihnachtsmann or Santa in German. His main function is to distribute gifts to children in homes during the Christmas night that takes place every year from 24 to 25 December.
Santa Claus name is itself a distorsion of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) Dutch. It is largely inspired by Julenisse, a Nordic elf who brings gifts during the holiday of the middle of winter, Midtvintersblot, just under the Celtic god Gargan (which inspired Rabelais’ Gargantua) but especially the Viking god Odin, coming down to earth to deliver gifts to Scandinavian children. It seems to be this one, the ancestor of all others, the starting point.
From Julenisse, Santa has kept the white beard, cap and clothing in red fur, from Gargan has retained the hood and boots.
Although the myth can vary greatly from one region to another, particularly because of the climate of December 25, which can range from early winter in the northern hemisphere at the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, he is generally imagined as a big man with a long white beard, dressed in warm red clothes with white fur edging; the elves help prepare gifts. He performs the distribution on a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer.
He enters the houses through the chimney and places gifts in shoes placed around the Christmas tree or by the fireplace (in France), in socks designed for this purpose hung on the chimney (in North America and the United Kingdom), or just under the tree. In Iceland, he deposits a small gift in a shoe that children leave on the edge of a window at the beginning of December. In Canada, the gifts under the tree are in order, in addition to “Christmas stocking” located on the fireplace where we put little surprises.
Some psychoanalysts conseider Santa Claus as a ritual that would feed the imagination of children and help them build and explore the reality. According to the families, the tradition is that children write to Santa and sent him a list of gifts he wants for Christmas, and Santa decides “itself” what gifts deserves the child.