Friday, December 24, 2010

Fairy Tale Fridays - Is The Story of Santa Claus A Fairy Tale?

Could the story of Santa Claus be considered a fairy tale?

Fairy tales, according to Wikipedia, typically feature folkloric creatures such as elves.  Not only that but in many versions of the story, Santa has flying reindeer and he's able to traverse the entire world in only one night. Furthermore, Santa appears to be immortal and can survive living in a climate where no other human being can survive.

As with many fairy tales, the story of Santa Claus has origins in many different countries and regions and is referred to by different names depending on the country of origin.  There are many similarities between Santa Claus and the early Germanic people's god, Odin.  Odin was also said to fly through the sky at Yule and children began filling their boots with goodies for Odin.

The dark aspect of early fairy tales is absent from the story of Santa Claus, however.  Santa is said to bring gifts to children and only naughty children are punished according to most versions of the Santa Claus story. In Alpine regions there are Krampus, said to be the companions of Saint Nicholas, who are even today represented as characters who frighten people with rusty chains and bells.

Perhaps the most telling difference between the story of Santa Claus and fairy tales is that fairy tales generally don't reference religion or actual people or places.  Despite the differing stories of Santa's origin, nearly all find their roots in religion and are based on an actual person.  Saint Nicholas of Myra, a 4th century Greek bishop, is the basis of Christianity's Sinterklaas.  Saint Nicholas was known for his generosity to the poor.

Fairy tale or not, I love to read the stories of Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Pere Noel.


  1. This is a good question and I am not sure how I would answer it. I would maybe say that Santa is part of folklore not really a fairy tale per se. Does that make any sense at all??

  2. Rusty chains and bells seem to have found their way into A Christmas Carol as well.

  3. what a cool post!! I loved learning all these interesting things!

  4. You have mentioned a couple of times that religion does not play into fairy tales, but in many tales, particularly of Andersen's works, there is a number of mentions of God. I think I would disagree with you on that point. BUT, I do agree with you that Santa Claus is not a fairy tale. Rumor has it that he was actually based on a real person! I believe the elf connection came later in the more traditional sense of Santa Claus.

    I'm loving your thoughts on Fairy Tale Fridays thus far! I look forward to reading more!