In this part of the world, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. Santa Claus, or Joulupukki in Finnish, has become an important part of the Holiday season. Currently, you will most likely find more Santa dolls than replicas of the Holy events, in the homes of the people of the north during Christmas.
Joulupukki may not really be real, but in many ways he is real. His message is for kids to be good. In his eye, we are all kids. He doesn’t judge anyone. He has a package for anyone who believes in him. He brings joy. I dare say, the smaller the package, the merrier the joy. Joulupukki is to you what you want him to be.
The modern popular Santa Claus has come to life since the 19th century. And there are three key attributes that stem from Arctic Europe: Santa himself, his reindeer, and the image.
Santa Claus’ home is Korvatunturi
Debatable, the true origins of Santa is north of the Arctic Circle. The darkest day of the year – winter solstice – is important, in particular, for the people of the north. It is the day when the days start to lighten up, a day for festivities. Today this is Christmas time.
In 1673 Johannes Schefferus edited «Lapponia», a book about the mysterious Saami people. In this book the festive culture of the people and Korvatunturi, are documented. Santa Claus’ mountain home is Korvatunturi. Together with images of flying animals of the Norse mythology, there are arguably a lot of elements from Arctic Europe in the Santa Claus we know of today.
Santa Claus’ reindeer are from Arctic Europe
The reindeer pulling Santa’s sledge up in the air is a transformation of Odin’s flying horse Sleipnir.
There is a very interesting story behind Rudolf and the rest of the reindeer team. Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863) wrote the poem “Twas the night before Christmas” in 1822. In the soon to be a popular poem, St. Nicholas’ sledge was pulled by eight reindeer.
At the end of the 19th century some Saami families and reindeer left Kautokeino, Norway to start reindeer herding in Alaska. The US government wanted to help the struggling Inuit people, and to introduce reindeer herding instead of whaling as a source of food.
Leading from one reindeer to another, we’ll fast forward to the 1920s. An abundant stock of reindeer meat was introduced to the American consumers by the Lomen Reindeer Company.
A shrewd marketing campaign was staged by Carl Lomen in 1926. Inspired by the poem from 1822, he created a Christmas parade with Santa, some Saami, their reindeer and a sleigh. It became a popular Christmas event and parades were held in many US cities.
The reindeer meat business never ballooned, but a fad for the plump Santa and his light-footed reindeer was rocketing. Santa’s reindeer were here to stay.
Santa Claus’ image was crafted by the son of a Finnish/Swedish couple
The image we have of Santa today, what he looks like, was pigeonholed and manifested in 1931.
The Coca-Cola Company wanted its famous and refreshing sugary summer drink to be drunk in the winter time as well. They commissioned the highly gifted artist Haddon Sundblom (1899 – 1976). He illustrated the enduring advertising campaign uniting Santa Claus and Coca-Cola. Until 1964, Sundblom fashioned the image of the warm, chubby, friendly, and pleasant Santa we meet in Rovaniemi today.
Sundblom, born in Michigan, USA, was the son of Finnish/Swedish immigrants.
Any doubts? Any Santa Claus claiming not to originate from Rovaniemi and Korvatunturi are fakes!