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20 Fun Facts About Santa Claus

Ho-ho-how many of these fascinating facts about jolly old Saint Nick do you know?

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  December 2nd 2022

He's the most famous festive figure and the reason we sit up all night on Christmas Eve! But Santa Claus actually has a very long history - he's been around for more than 1,500 years! See if you learn something you didn't know in our festive fun facts! Then check out some more Christmassy trivia - maybe our tree-mendous Christmas tree facts, or some Christmas history facts!

1. His real name is St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas was a Turkish bishop of Greek descent during the Roman Empire. The story goes that he gave the gift of money to three girls to pay their wedding dowry by secretly dropping it in a sack through the window. There was a lot more to him, though - he's also the patron saint of children, sailors, pharmacists, and Aberdeen!

2. ...but he has a lot of other names

"Santa Claus" is his most famous name, and that comes from the Dutch "Sinterklaas" (based on "Saint Nicholas"). He's also known as Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Christmas Man (in German) and Grandfather Frost (in Russian).

3. His sleigh is INSANELY fast

He's gotta cover the whole planet in 31 hours (thanks to time differences) - that means Santa's sleigh would have to go at about 1,800 miles per second. Hope he wears a seatbelt!

4. He didn't always go down chimneys

This part of his lore came from an 1812 story called "Knickerbocker's History of New York" by American author Washington Irving, who is most famous for his story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (you know, with the headless horseman).

5. He became more famous in a poem

A more famous version of Santa Claus came from an 1823 poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas", later renamed "Twas the Night Before Christmas." It was published anonymously in a New York newspaper, and in 1844 it was credited to a professor named Clement Clark Moore. Some people think he isn't the real author though!

6. Coca-Cola designed his outfit

Believe it or not, early pictures of Santa have him wearing green! His iconic red and white suit first appeared in a Coca-Cola advert in 1931, and it's been his signature look ever since!

7. No one's quite sure where he lives

We know he lives in the North Pole, but that covers a lot of ground. In Nordic legends he is said to live in a small hill in Lapland, Finland. Quite far from Turkey, then!

8. All your letters go somewhere...

All the letters that you write to Santa have to go somewhere! In the USA all letters are sent to one post office in a town called Santa Claus in Indiana. The USA only writes the third most letters to Santa - the second most come from Canada, and the most are written by children in France!

9. He might need a few more reindeer...

Here are some numbers: if Santa delivered presents to every child on Earth he would be carrying at least 400,000 tons of presents. Nine reindeer can't pull that much weight (not to mention the sleigh and Santa himself) - in fact, you'd need at least 360,000 reindeer. Good luck remembering all those names!

10. He has a pilot's license and a passport!

Don't worry, Santa won't get stuck in airport security - he was issued a pilot's license by the US government in 1927! In 2013 Canada officially gave Santa a passport, making him a Canadian citizen.

11. There's no Santa in Iceland

In Iceland Santa isn't a thing - but don't worry, they still get their presents! Instead Icelanders have THIRTEEN Santa Clauses, known as the Yule Lads. They're merry and mischievous and give good children sweets and bad children rotting potatoes. They include Pot Scraper, Door Slammer, Spoon Licker and Sausage Swiper, and yes they are named after what they do best!

12. You can track his progress

Don't worry, you can keep an eye on Santa's progress with GPS! The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) is the biggest programme for this and will show you Santa's progress in several languages.

13. He has another Scandinavian variant

Before Santa Claus became popular in Scandinavia one of the biggest Christmas figures was the Yule Goat. This magical goat would wander around making sure people were preparing for Christmas, and demanding presents - so, kind of a reverse Santa!

14. Coal wasn't always an awful present

Famously Santa gives coal to bad children, but in the olden days this would actually be quite a good present. Most families relied to coal to heat their homes and it was expensive - remember in A Christmas Carol when mean Scrooge won't let Bob Cratchit put another bit of coal on the fire? He didn't want to waste money! Nowadays though it's not a great gift - we'll settle for a PS5, ta!

15. He has a wife!

The first time Mrs. Claus was mentioned in an 1849 short story, but she didn't become a popular figure until 1889 when she starred in a poem called Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.

16. Santa was BANNED in the Soviet Union!

Dictator Joseph Stalin decided to ban Christmas in 1929, because he wanted no religion in the new Soviet regime - and that meant no Santa (or, if you've been paying attention, Grandfather Frost). People still celebrated in secret, though, and Christmas was allowed again in the 1990s.

17. Odin was kind of the original Santa

The Norse god Odin (you might remember him as Thor's dad in the Thor movies) was another precursor to Santa Claus. Children left food for him, and in return he'd leave them sweets and gifts. His two ravens listened at chimneys to find out who was naughty or nice. He even had a long white beard!

18. Mexican children send their letters with balloons

A popular custom in Mexico and Latin America is to put the letters in a helium balloon and then let them fly upwards to Santa!

19. Spanish children get their presents delivered in an... interesting way

In Spain's Catalan region children paint a log with a face - it's called a Tió de Nadal. They then offer it food and keep it warm with a blanket. Then, they'll either put the log in the fire or beat it with sticks, to make it "poo" out presents. Bit more effort than hanging a stocking!

20. He's had a go at politics!

There's a town in Alaska in the USA called North Pole, and in 2015 a man legally named Santa Claus was elected to the City Council! Well, he has to do something for the rest of the year!