“How old is Santa?”

(Image: Odin the Wanderer by Georg von Rosen 1843-1923.)

That depends on whether you think Santa Claus began his life as:

  • Saint Nicholas (aka Nikolaos the Wonder-worker), the 4th Century Greek Bishop of Myra who had a penchant for dropping coins in the clogs of the poor and who came to be known to the Dutch as Sinterklaas (St. Nick was born in 270, which would make Santa Claus 1741)
  • Father Christmas, whose preferred means of travel appears to have been by goat, not reindeer-pulled sleigh (first mentioned in 15th C British Christmas carols, which would make Santa Claus roughly 600 years old)
  • Santa Claus, the Americanized version of the British and Dutch Sinterklaas (a name first used in the American press in 1773, which would make Santa Claus a relatively spry 238)

  • Albert Einstein, who according to Gaute Einevoll, bears a striking resemblance to the man in red and who, perhaps more importantly, has the in-depth knowledge of moving matter required to deliver all those presents on time. Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, so if you subscribe to Einevoll’s “Quanta Claus” theory, then Santa Claus would have turned 132 this year.
  • The Norse god Odin. Every winter, Odin would lead a great Yule hunting party through the sky on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Children would set boots filled with carrots, straw, or sugar by their chimneys as snacks for Odin’s horse. Odin would reward the children for their kindness by filling the boots with candy and gifts. (If Odin is the original Santa Claus, that would make Santa very old indeed. Too old for us to count, I’m afraid.)

So there you have it. Depending on which theory you subscribe to, the perennially 70ish in appearance Santa Claus could be anywhere from 132 to Too-Old-For-Us-To-Count.

So, you tell me. How old is Santa?

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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