In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas doesn’t look much different than the St. Nicholas depicted in other parts of the world. He wears his Bishop’s garb, gives gifts to the children… has a big white beard, etc. But it is important to point out that St. Nick isn’t the only inspiration for Sinterklaas. This fascinating character also owes many of his attributes to an earlier, pre-Christian entity. Namely, Odin.
There is a theory, and it is quite plausible, that Sinterklaas owes as much of his characteristics to the Norse god Odin as he does to Jolly Ole St. Nick. Odin, a very popular god in Germanic regions pre-Christianity, was often depicted upon a horse (with 8 legs), that flies through the air. Sinterklaas also has a flying horse. Odin had a long flowing white beard, as does Sinterklaas. And while children are now known to leave carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas’ horse Amerigo, pagan children used to do the same thing for Odin’s steed, Sleipnir.
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