Another of our past postings, first published three years ago today! Somewhere in our psyche we know these things.
Evidently Santa Claus is the result of a long development of the original legend of the Scandinavian Yule Goat. The Norse god Thor’s chariot was draw across the sky by two goats, which Thor killed and fed to the other gods for the winter festival. But the next morning he had great remorse and resurrected them with his hammer.
In the convoluted way that stories… and goats!… move, the Yule Goat appeared before Christmas in various ways throughout Scandinavia to check up on preparations and to demand gifts. Young men would dress up as the Yule Goat, walk and sing in the streets and get rowdy. A Christmas prank was to sneak a goat into a neighbor’s home, who then had to sneak it into someone else’s to get rid of it!
Gradually, rather than demand gifts, the Yule Goat brought them. It is thought that St. Nicholas and Father Christmas may have replaced the Yule Goat in the late 19th century. The Yule Goat is still depicted being led by St. Nicholas or, in Sweden, being ridden by Santa Claus. One interpretation is that St. Nicholas is overcoming the Devil.
Speaking with a friend yesterday, I remembered how children often are afraid of Santa Claus. How many times do we see young children crying as their ambitious parents force them onto the lap of the large, bearded saint for a picture? I wondered aloud at this fear. Yes, Santa Claus looks different from everyone else the child meets, no wonder he or she is suspicious! But I also wonder if somewhere in that child’s psyche, he/she senses the ambivalent nature of that seemly jolly old saint who once was an ornery Yule Goat!