The history of Santa Claus is wrapped in legend and possibly originates from a number of different beings. The name Santa Claus is believed to be derived from Saint Nicholas, the national saint of Russia, Greece, Apulia, Sicily and Lorraine. He is the patron saint of judges, paupers, sailors (specifically storm-beset sailors), bakers, travelers, poor children, prisoners, perfumers, thieves (highwaymen are called "St. Nicholas' clerks" and pray to him for travelers to set upon), pawnbrokers, boys, virgins and/or unmarried girls and others; and friend and protector of anyone in trouble.
Saint Nicholas was born in 4th-century Lycia, near the coast of Asia Minor (what is now Turkey) and eventually became the bishop of Myra. His love of children, his kindness, his charity and the miracles attributed to him are legendary. He was supposedly present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., where he was imprisoned for his faith by Emperor Diocletian: He once saved three wrongly accused soldiers from execution by appearing to Emperor Constantine in a dream. He also rescued three sailors from a storm off the Turkish coast, and restored three children to life, one after another, after their heads had been severed. His most famous story tells how he helped three unfortunate young sisters who could not marry because their father, a poor nobleman, had no money to pay their dowry. A shy man, the bishop Nicholas attempted to give the money anonymously, tossing a bag of gold into the nobleman's house on each of three nights. On the third night, the nobleman kept watch and saw Nicholas drop the bag of gold into the house. It has been said that Nicholas climbed on the roof and dropped the third bag of gold down the chimney where it landed in a stocking hung to dry. Nicholas begged the nobleman to keep his secret, but the news got out. From then on, when anyone received an unexpected gift, they thanked Nicholas. When Nicholas' relics were taken by sailors and moved to Bari, Italy in 1087, following the Muslim invasion of Myra, a church was built upon them, inaugurated by Pope Urban II.
Six hundred years after Myra's end, the Russian Emperor Vladimir visited Constantinople and heard all the wonderful stories about Bishop Nicholas and decided to make him the patron saint of Russia. The stories spread to the Laplands, to the people of the reindeer sleds. In the Netherlands, the name Sint Nicholaas was contracted into Sinterklaas, which inspired the name Santa Claus. The day before the anniversary of Nicholas' death, December 5th, became a time of giving, which over time became linked to Christmas, the December 25th Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In England, St. Nicholas (or rather, his popularity) went underground during the Cromwellian period (1653-1658) but resurfaced following the Restoration of 1660.
Another source details Santa Claus as a derivation of the Asgardian all-father, Odin. Centuries ago, the fisherman Sigurd's ship was caught in a fierce storm while returning with provisions for his home village's Midwinter's feast. The storm blotted out the stars, and Sigurd and his sailors could not navigate their way home. Sigurd's wife, Sia, prayed to Odin to help her husband. At the same time, the Asgardian Troll, Grylak the Greater - who had summoned a giant asteroid towards the city of Asgard, home of the Gods - demanded Odin surrender Asgard to him or risk its destruction. Odin commanded his son, Thor, to stay his hand against Grylak and instead gather a quantity of Asgard's finest foods, wines, and linens. At a moment predetermined by Odin, Thor hurled his magic hammer, Mjolnir, and destroyed the asteroid; and the resultant energies formed a brilliant flash of light, which appeared as a bright star in the sky that guided Sigurd and his sailors home. Meanwhile, Sia heard an odd sound, and rushed to the hearth, where she saw a man in furs holding a massive bundle. The man vanished in a flash of light, leaving behind meat and fine gifts. Sigurd returned a moment after they discovered the gifts. Sia and Sigurd looked outside and saw Odin in furs riding a sleigh driven by two flying rams. Odin cried: "A good Midwinter to all! And to all a good life!"
Other sources detail that before Christianity came to British shores, it was customary for a community elder to dress in furs and visit each dwelling. At each house, in the guise of "Old Winter" he would receive food and drink. It was thought he carried the spirit of the winter with him, and that the winter would be kind to anyone hospitable to Old Winter. The custom was maintained in Medieval England, and after a decline during the Commonwealth, became widespread again during the Restoration period. With the arrival of Christianity, Old Winter eventually became known as "Old Christmas", "Old Father Christmas", and "Father Christmas". The Russian Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost") and German Väterchen Frost share some characteristics with the British Old Winter.
In many Eastern Othodox traditions, Santa Claus is identified with Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (contemporary Turkey) whose memory is celebrated on that day. According to the Greek tradition, he is supposed to visit children and give presents every January 1. The name Kris Kringle is believed to be derived from the word Kriskindl ("Christ Child") who brings the gifts in Germany. This word is associated with the angel placed atop a Christmas tree; ironically, the tree and many other Christmas traditions originate from pagan traditions, specifically those performed by worshipers of the Asgardian gods. Yet another source relates Santa as being a kindly woodcarver in Europe during the Middle Ages who went from town to town, giving gifts he made himself. One Christmas, he and his wife were caught in a blizzard, but were saved by elves. The elves told Claus he was their predicted leader, and made him immortal.
The precise origins of Santa Claus are not revealed, but Santa Claus is actually a magical being composed of elements of the various beings described above. Humanity's collective beliefs in these legendary figures merged with spiritual energy and aspects of the beings themselves gave him form as a manifestation of the spirit of giving associated with Christmas and other such holidays. Some say Santa Claus' existence is predicated on children's faith in him being real. Originally based in Korvatunturi, Lapland (on Finland's Eastern frontier), Santa Claus rode a horse to deliver his gifts. At some point he took a wife and established a workshop in the North Pole. Described by some as a "jolly old elf", Santa assembled a team of dedicated true elves - most of whom were descended from the Light Elves of Alfheim, a realm associated with Asgard - who constructed toys all year round. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus magically fills a dimensionally limitless sack with toys and travels the planet via his sleigh, driven by eight flying reindeer, delivering the toys to good boys and girls, bending the laws of space and time to accomplish the feat over the course of one night. Santa Claus magically slips down the chimneys or uses magic passkeys to enter apartments, and delivers the toys, around a tree or in stockings put by the fireplace, often taking the time to enjoy cookies and milk left for him by the children and/or their parents. In a variety of different forms and known by numerous names, Santa Claus performs similar deeds across Earth. In some cultures, he is sometimes accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter, who punishes bad children. Frenchwomen sometimes prayed to him for husbands. He supposedly "inherited" some of his magic from Melchior, one of the Three Kings of Bethlehem. His horse, reindeer and elves are all allegedly gifts from Odin; Odin's goats, Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder (later gifted to Thor), and his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, are the likely inspiration for these. By some accounts, Santa Claus and Father Christmas are separate beings, though they may share similar magical origins.
On one particular Christmas Eve, a thick fog settled over the North Pole, seriously hampering visibility. Santa found a solution in Rudolph, the adolescent fawn of one of his flying reindeer, Donner. Rudolph had previously been ostracized by the other reindeer for his nose, which glowed a bright red, but this very feature made Rudolph a perfect candidate to guide Santa's sleigh through the fog. Saving Christmas that year, Rudolph became a popular and legendary figure to the other reindeer. Accounts of Santa Claus' interactions with humanity are often discounted as folklore and/or imagination, but a number of such exploits have made public record. Early reports of Santa, in his modern incarnation, were made by author Washington Irving (under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker) in his 1809 "History of New York", and by writer Clement Clarke Moore in 1923's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" (more popularly known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas").
In December, 1943, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had Santa Claus captured to destroy the U.S.A.'s morale, but U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent Sgt. Nick Fury, Captain America (Steve Rogers), and Bucky (James Barnes) to rescue him. On Christmas Day 1954, Santa Claus, posing as a wealthy man, instructed Smith City garage attendant Sammy Glenn, an intelligent man who had never made good on his abilities, to watch his car and luggage for six hours. On impulse, Glenn "borrowed" the car and a suit and entered an executive club, where he met an attractive woman and received a job offer. Stunned by his good fortune, Glenn returned the car to its owner not realizing that the man was Santa Claus. That same year, Santa had a run-in with an unidentified burglar. The following Christmas, Santa (keeping his identity anonymous) chastised wealthy miser Olvier Gombul for his selfish ways; but Santa was pleased when Gombul vowed to become a better man after the young Ned Evans, son of one of Gombul's employees, gave him a present - the first Gombul had ever received.
In more recent years, on Christmas Eve, Santa saved New York City from the Hate-Monger (a clone of Hitler) when his sleigh - seen only as an unidentified flying object - soared through the air at unprecedented speed, distracting one of the Hate-Monger's pilots, who crashed into the Hate-Monger's nuclear bomb.
Years later, on another December 24th, Cerebro, the mutant-detecting computer of the X-Men, detected "the most powerful mutant ever registered" in New York's Rockefeller Center. This being was also detected by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Unus the Untouchable, the Blob, the Toad and Mastermind) who sought it out, resulting in a skirmish with the X-Men. This ended when Santa briefly transformed the Brotherhood into inanimate toys, teleported the X-Men away, erased both groups' memories of his involvement, and then gifted the city with snowfall, the first white Christmas in years.
Affected by the new reality of the ever-changing world, Santa at least once attempted to modernize. He took to wearing a smaller beard, using a more lavish fake beard on Christmas. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals then forced Santa to rebuild his sleigh so that it ran on its own power, not from being pulled by the reindeer. Claus initially used steam until an oil company representative (possibly from the Roxxon Oil Company) convinced him to switch over to high-octane fuel. Caught up in this trend, Santa opened up a nuclear power plant and gas station at the North Pole. The plan was actually controlled, however, by Greedy Killerwatt, who had been a "jumper" (worker hired to enter "hot" areas of nuclear plants to do various tasks) mutated into a form resembling a light bulb. Santa took in a convict named Pinball Lizard, after conferring with his parole officer, as director of his Fun N' Games department. However, Pinball Lizard fell in with Greedy Killerwatt, who used his powers to change Pinball into a lizard-like being, as well as mutating many of Santa's elves into trolls. Attempting to destroy Santa Claus by putting an insufficient amount of gas in his sleigh so he would crash, Pinball took over the workshop and forced elves who did not become trolls to construct mass-produced, shoddy toys while Santa went on his rounds. Killerwatt intended to take over Christmas in revenge against society for his mutation. Santa crashed in Cleveland, where he encountered Howard the Duck. Discovering that he was out of fuel, Santa realized that since gas rationing was in effect, he could not get enough fuel to return to the Arctic. However, Howard, who worked at the "To Hack and Back" taxi company at the time, offered to let Claus use their pumps. Howard filled the tank, and he and the young Carol Starkowitz (daughter of Claude Starkowitz, designer of the "Iron Duck" armor) went to the North Pole with Claus. Mrs. Claus told them of Pinball Lizard's rebellion, and Santa, Howard, Carol, the loyal elves, toys animated by elf magic, and a gun-toting elf named Sunquist (originally from Florida) drove off Pinball Lizard and his trolls, who escaped via dirigible. However, the nuclear power plant still threatened to "melt down" through the center of the earth until it reached Antarctica, thus destroying the world. Pinball Lizard rendezvoused with Killerwatt, who dispatched mutated seals, polar bears, penguins, and whales against Howard the Duck and his compatriots, who were joined by Chief Ollakook of a local Unuit tribe. Howard and Carol sidestepped the mutated animals to find Pinball Lizard, whom Howard speared in the tail. Sunquist shot Killerwatt in the head, and Killerwatt's injury undid his mutations, returning Pinball Lizard and the others to normal. Santa promised to shut down the nuclear power plant, swearing to convert the toy shop to solar power, and to power his sleigh with organic fuels, as Sunquist had recommended all along.
More recently, a criminal scam artist, working as a mall Santa, asked children where they lived so he could deliver their presents. He then appeared at their windows dressed as Santa, duping the children to letting him in, after which he would loot their house. Spider-Man (Peter Parker) eventually encountered the thief, who fled to the roof, where the real Santa Claus, angry at this misuse of his identity, scared the thief into giving up crime before Spider-Man arrived.
For a time, Santa used his knowledge of who was naughty and who was nice to become the world's greatest detective as "Nick St. Christopher". In this role he aided the She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters) in locating evidence for a murder investigation. Entranced by the She-Hulk, St. Christopher made a pass at her, but then Mrs. Claus arrived to corral him and to punish She-Hulk by filling her office with reindeer droppings. Before departing, St. Christopher gave She-Hulk a present, telling her to use it on Christmas for something special. When she was later trapped in She-Hulk form, she opened the present, which allowed her to return to her human form to celebrate a normal Christmas evening with her father, Morris Walters.
Santa's good nature has proven capable of softening even the hardest of hearts. One year Santa was injured while visiting Latveria, and monarch Victor von Doom (or at least one of his life like Doombots) replaced Santa in delivering toys that year. Madman Doctor Otto Octavius once took over Santa's workshop, imprisoned Claus, and forced his elves to create deadly toys that would be sent out to injure children. Scott Lang's daughter, Cassie, received one of these toys. Destroying the toy, Lang, as Ant-Man, traveled to the North Pole to investigate. Discovering Doctor Octopus' role in the affair, Lang shrank him down so they were the same size, and then battled him. During their struggle, Santa Claus managed to free himself, and used his powers to restore both Ant-Man and Doctor Octopus to normal size. Doctor Octopus attempted to escape, but Rudolph stopped him. Octopus then agreed to help Santa Claus load up his sleigh, and Santa Claus used his powers to shrink the load down.
Another year, demoralized by mankind's lack of faith and belief, Santa sold his entire franchise to the terrorists of Hydra. Around the same time, Howard the Duck had been drafted by his partner, Beverly Switzler, to act as a mall Santa (a.k.a. Santa's helper) at the Mondo Mega Mall after the regular helper had been injured in an escalator accident. One of Santa's elves recruited a number of other Santa's helpers - including Howard the Duck, Vito Claus, Bubba Clause, Santa Clara, Claus Tse-Tung, Sanity Claus and Willy Lumpkin Claus - to prevent Hydra from ruining Christmas. Ultimately Howard and the recently orphaned Dionysus Finster, who had latched onto Howard as the mall Santa and accompanied him to the North Pole, convinced Santa to renege on his deal with Hydra, and the various Santa's helpers joined forces with Santa and the elves to drive off the Commando Corps of Hydra Accountants. One Christmas, Santa aided the young mutant team Generation X against the youth-abducting Nanny and Orphan Maker. Another year, the Doorman (DeMarr David), who had recently been drafted as the Avatar of Oblivion, encountered Santa and asked him for a Christmas miracle for his dad: "Some toy he'd always longed for ever since he was a kid, something to teach him the true meaning of Christmas and help forge a bond between father and son?" Unfortunately, as Christmas Eve was Santa's busiest time of year, he didn't have time to help out Doorman, though later he was able to join Doorman and his teammates (then the GLX/Great Lakes X-Men) on their Christmas celebration.
|Power Grid |
|* Teleporter; Heightened strength on Christmas Eve|
Santa Claus has a number of magical abilities, including longevity, the ability to fit himself and others through any chimney (avoiding fiery injury in the process), levitate up a chimney (usually by touching his nose and nodding), alter the appearance of himself or other objects or beings (including physically transforming a person into an inanimate object), change the size of other objects, teleport himself and others across the world, generate snow and determine who has been naughty or nice. Lapland's Korvatunturi is said to resemble a hare's ears, which were rumored to be Santa's ears, the means with which he listened to determine who was behaving. His normal strength is augmented on Christmas Eve to lift (press) 2 tons. Santa's full powers are not revealed, though he prefers not to use them in combat or other struggles. While he appears to be a senior, Santa has not physically aged in centuries. Santa Claus has access to a wide range of supernatural artifacts, which he uses to accomplish various feats of magic. Though often depicted as Caucasian in appearance, Santa actually appears to most people in their own racial features, though he usually retains his white hair and beard. He radiates a subtle charismatic charming effect on people, able to soften hardened hearts, and convert criminals.
He commands a sleigh pulled by a number of magic flying reindeer - including Blitzen (a.k.a. Blixem & Blixen), Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Dancer, Donner (a.k.a. Dunder & Donder), Prancer, Rudolph and Vixen - who magically enable him to travel across the planet, stopping at most houses along the way, in a single night. His magical sack - actually a tesseract serving as a portal to a sort of storage dimension - holds enough presents to supply the entire world in one trip. At each home, he travels down the chimney (or the closest alternative where chimneys are lacking) and deposits presents for good boys and girls, but leaves only a lump of coal for the naughty. He frequently will consume cookies and milk left for him before departing on to the next house. His reindeer Rudolph's nose gives off a bright red glow that enables Santa to see and navigate through the worst blizzards, fogs, or other conditions of poor visibility. Santa briefly used a gasoline-powered sleigh, and he has also at least once empowered a pack of huskies to pull his sleigh.
Santa is served by a number of magical elves, who construct the toys he gives out. Though some have differing origins, the elves are descended from the Light Elves of Asgard's Alfheim, and they are resistant to aging and conventional disease. The elf Sunquist, in particular, is solar-powered and can animate toys and rearrange matter. In addition, Sunquist is a member of E.L.F., the Elf Labor Federation, which protects elves - an exploited minority - so that they might offer their services only to the extent that they did not cause humanity to become unduly reliant on elfkind. In addition, across America and other places, regular men (and women) serve as Santa's helpers, meeting with children, learning what they want for Christmas, and passing this information on to Santa himself.
- 21 Appearances of Santa Claus (Earth-616)
- 5 Minor Appearances of Santa Claus (Earth-616)
- Media Santa Claus (Earth-616) was Mentioned in
- 18 Images featuring Santa Claus (Earth-616)
- Quotations by or about Santa Claus (Earth-616)
- Character Gallery: Santa Claus (Earth-616)
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