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The Origin of Santa Claus

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(Text taken from http://efl.htmlplanet.com/xmas.htm#santa; modified by the author)

The Origin of Santa Claus


The modern-day Santa Claus appears to be a combination of 4 historical personages:

They are (in no particular order):

1.  An Evil Gnome (Joulupukki, Jolasveinar)
2.  A Finnish Prince (Lemminkäinen)
3.  A Norse God (Thor)
4.  A Catholic Bishop (St. Nicholas)

An Evil Gnome:

There is a very old Finnish legend of an evil gnome with god-like powers, named Jouluppukki.  Jouluppukki was originally a really bad guy.  He came from the north, flying or riding on some beast (possibly a goat or a buck).  He would demand gifts from the people and if these gifts were not satisfactory, Joulupukki would wreak havoc upon the people.

There is a similar tradition in Iceland.  There was a family of evil ogres (called Jolasveinar), who would capture and allegedly eat children, if the gifts of the people were not satisfactory.  In time, the legend was changed such that only naughty children were captured.  Later the story was perpetuated to make children behave.

A Finnish Prince:

There is a story (The Bock Saga) of a Finnish prince named Lemminkaimen, who was the 12th son of Ukko and Akka (the famous grandparents of the Finish race). According to the legend he was the sole survivor of the royal family when the so-called Christian Swedes invaded Finland.  The story goes that Lemminkaimen was a benevolent prince-king who escaped the Swedes by going to Lapland, northern Finland.  He is said to have worn red clothes (like the modern Santa Claus) and rode a goat or buck.  In the story of the Bock Saga, Lemminkaimen was said to have received the nickname: Joulupukki.

A Norse God:

Imagine this:  A man-like god with bright red hair flying through the air in his chariot being drawn by two goats.  That would be Thor, a kind-hearted god of thunder in Germanic mythology who would bestow gifts to humans in return for porridge, especially around winter solstice.  He may have worn red, as red is said to be "his" colour, and he is also known as the Yule Elf.

A Catholic Bishop:

As the saying goes there was a Catholic Bishop named Nicholas, who was stationed in Myra, in present-day Turkey, and was said to have been extremely generous to children.  After his death he was beatified by the pope and he became the patron saint of children.  December 6th is St. Nicholas Day in many countries, including Belgium, Netherlands, Hungary & Poland.

A. Fill in the blanks with the names of the historical personages.                


In “The Origin of Santa Claus” not only three positive figures , and , but also two negative figures   and contributed to the modern-day Santa Claus.

Santa’s red hat and coat might come from or .

and gave gifts.

Interestingly enough was a bad guy, but it was also a nickname of a good guy .


B. Find the meaning of the words. Write a-k in the boxes.


1.       gnome                                           a.      cause destruction 

2.     ogre                                             b.     cause to continue

3.     wreak havoc                                  c.      disobedient

4.     allegedly                                       d.      give

5.     naughty                                         e.      having the title of “blessed”

6.     perpetuate                                    f.      monster who eats humans

7.     benevolent                                     g.      said without any proof

8.     chariot                                          h.      small, misshapen imaginary being      

9.     bestow                                          i.        the shortest days in the year

10.  beatified                                       j.       two-wheeled animal drawn vehicle

11.   winter solstice                               k.      well-wishing















 C. Read the text again and find synonyms for:


allegedly                                      benevolent

according to the legend                                      evil
as the saying goes                                              god-like
there is a story                                                 beast
similar tradition                                                generous
the story goes that                                            kind-hearted
in the story                                                       man-like  


D. Find positive and negative adjectives in the text.