Santa Claus is a holiday figure who delivers gifts on Christmas. In most modern depictions he is very fat, wearing a red & white suit, a hat, and a long, white beard. He lives at the North Pole and uses elven labor to manufacture all the toys he delivers (even the more complex ones, like video games or high-end electronics). In December, malls often set up areas where children can tell a fake Santa what they want and get their picture taken with him. On Christmas Eve, Santa loads all the gifts into a sack, and loads the sack onto a sleigh driven by his team of flying reindeer. He then travels the world, delivering the gifts that children requested. NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has begun a tradition of tracking Santa as he makes his way around the world. They assume that he travels a route that allows him 31 hours of toy delivery time, and map his journey as such.
When he comes to a house, he traditionally enters through the chimney. Some suggest that he climbs directly down the chimney and into the house; others, however, believe that he is too fat to fit into the chimney, and must use some sort of magic or shape-shifting to get through. It is unknown whether houses without chimneys qualify for a visit. At any rate, when in the house he eats any milk and cookies that the family may have left as an offering to him. When he has had his fill, he delivers the gifts based on how children behaved during the year. He keeps track of their behavior by making a list of children, and whether they were naughty or nice. He has the power to see them wherever they are, meaning that children can't hide what they do from him. If they were nice, they get gifts and a stocking full of candy or smaller gifts; if the child was naughty, they either get coal or a whipping (see Sidekicks). He then leaves the house, only to repeat it for however many more houses remain. Nobody knows what he does for the other days of the year; some think that he sleeps, while others believe that he prepares for the next year.
In addition to Mrs. Claus and his elves, Santa Claus has much more help available in his Christmas adventures.
Pulling Santa's sleigh are twelve flying reindeer. They were first mentioned in the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, which starts with the famous line "'Twas the night before Christmas". Their names are:
The most famous of all the reindeer (and the only one with a movie) is Rudolph, known for his red nose. Although shunned by the other reindeer for it, he was eventually called upon by Santa to lead his sleigh through foggy conditions. Today, he is the most well-known reindeer; many people can't name any of the others. Ironically, the aforementioned poem makes no mention of Rudolph; he was invented for a 1939 coloring book sold at Montgomery Ward.
Whip Father/Father Spanker
Although not well-known in America, many European (especially French) children fear him. Writings on the Whip Father indicate that he was originally the owner of an inn on the European countryside. One day, a few rich boys came through town, and the Whip Father decided to kill them and steal their money. When Santa Claus found out about this, he revived the boys and bound the Whip Father with chains.
Santa sends the Whip Father to the houses of naughty children to whip them with his chains. However, in recent years, he has been softened a bit, as parents now tell their children that he merely spanks naughty children, leading to his new name of Father Spanker (French: Père Fouettard).
A demon that Santa summoned from the depths of Hell to punish naughty children, he bears important similarities to the Whip Father. Like Father Spanker, he punishes the naughty by beating them with chains or wood sticks. Similar to how the oni work in Japanese culture, adults in some communities dress up like a Krampus around Christmas and go on parade around town to scare children into behaving properly.
A small African elf (although it is equally likely that he is just in blackface), he is mostly limited to Portugal. He sneaks into the houses of naughty children and captures them in his sack. Nobody knows what he does with the children he abducts.
Although commonly referred to simply as Santa Claus, he goes by many names, including, but not limited to:
- Saint Nicholas
- Kris Kringle
- Father Christmas
- Père Noël
Most other names are just regional variations on the terms "Santa Claus" (example: Sinterklaas) or "Father Christmas" (example: Père Noël).
Several people have pointed out every aspect of Santa is a scientific impossibility. One of the more popular collection of reasons about how he violates the laws of physics is this one, seen across the Internet very often during the holiday season.
Others argue that Santa as a figure has overly commercialized Christmas, or that he is a secularized replacement for God or Jesus Christ. Some also object to telling children that Santa is real, as they claim it has a negative psychological impact on the children and causes them unnecessary agitation when they discover the truth.