Santa around the world.

New Year’s holidays are always the most magical moments of the year, with fabulous, cheerful and kind atmosphere.  
Santa is a symbol of this joyous holiday, very popular in every country and he has lots of different names like Santa Claus, Ded Moroz,  Father Christmas,  Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas,  Saint Nick, Kris Kringle and many more. 

The modern character of Santa Claus is a prototype of Saint Nicholas, who was a Christian bishop of the maritime city of Myra (now is Demre, Turkey). Saint Nicholas gave away all of his wealth to poor and ill people. Over many years, there were many legends about Saint Nicholas, and he became known as the patron saint of sailors, merchants, children, unmarried people, and students. He was admired for his kindness, generosity, gifts and many miracles and eventually the image of Santa Claus was created. 

The name Santa Claus was originated from Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas. (Dutch for Saint Nicholas)  

His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. Usually, children and adults received the desirable gifts. 

Different countries have their own Christmas characters, his own story, his assistants and special traditional costumes. Who they are and where do they live? 

Sinterklaas,  Netherlands 

Sinterklaas, also known as Saint Nickolas, is an admired figure for Dutch children.

Sinterklaas arrives in Netherlands with his helper Zwarte Piet every year. Thousands of children await him with enthusiasm, and they place their shoes next to the chimney or back door. At night, Sinterklaas visits the homes of every kid and leaves sweets and generous gifts in the children’s shoes.

Traditional sweets are gingerbread men, spiced biscuits, dried fruits, marzipan and chocolate letters.

The whole family meets together and exchange the gifts for holiday celebrations on December 5.

Christmas’s festive celebrations are on 25th and 26th of December. People spend two days with their family, playing games, watching movies and eating delicious food.

Santa Claus 

Santa Claus is very popular character in the United States and Canada. He brings gifts to well-behaved children on Christmas Eve and coal to naughty kids.  

Santa Claus comes down the chimney the night before Christmas, leaving presents for children under the Christmas tree! Children often leave Christmas stockings by the fireplace that Santa can fill with small gifts and sweets. 

In 1804, John Pintard, an American merchant and philanthropist, established the modern concept of Santa Claus based on the inspiration of the Dutch legend of Sinter Klaas. In 1809, Washington Irving published a book A History of New York, where he described Christmas traditions in the United States and Santa Claus as St. Nicholas. His story helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas. The name appeared in the American press as “St. A Claus”  

The well-known face of Santa Claus today is the result of the work of Haddon Sundblom, an American artist, who created Santa Claus for the New Year’s advertisement for Coca-Cola Company in 1931. 

Santa Claus became more famous and beloved character in American and Canadian Christmas celebrations. 

Ded Moroz, Russia 

Russian people call Santa Clause Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and he is a legendary and very popular character in Russian culture. 

Our ancestors imagined him as a grandfather with a white beard. A strong chill began from his breathing. Icicles appeared from his tears. The words he said, turning to frost. Snow clouds are his hair. In winter, Ded Moroz bypasses forests, fields, streets and everything freeze. He doesn’t like people who shiver and complain about the cold, but gives strength and blushes to people who are cheerful and energetic.  

In Russia, Ded Moroz appeared in 1910, at Christmas, but following the Russian Revolution, Christmas traditions were discouraged because they were considered to be “bourgeois and religious.” In 1840 Ded Moroz appeared in the fairy tales “Moroz Ivanovich” by V. Odoevsky for the first time. Later, lots of cartoons and movies were created with this character, and Ded Moroz became an iconic symbol of New Year traditions. Up to this day, kids believe that Ded Moroz comes to every house on New Year’s Eve and brings gifts to children.    

Ded Moroz has a helper Snegurochka or Snow Maiden.  She is an another beloved character from Russian folklore: grandfather and grandmother made a doll-girl out of snow and she came to life. 

 In 1873 Russian playwright A. Ostrovsky, influenced by the ideas of A. Afanasyev work writes the play “Snegurochka” and she appears as the dear daughter of Frost and Spring. In 1881, N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov composed the outstanding opera “Snegurochka,” which became very famous. 

The modern look Snegurochka got in 1935 in the Soviet Union, after the government gave permission to celebrate the New Year. At first time Snegurochka appears together with Ded Moroz at a New Year festival in the Moscow House of Unions, the main performance of the Soviet Union. She always helps to make a New Year party for the children and give them lovely presents. Since then, Ded Moroz and Snegurochka became New Year’s attributes in this celebration. 

Weihnachtsmann, Germany  

In some regions of Germany, particularly in Bavaria, St. Nicholas was the main character in the Christmas celebration. He arrives earlier and gives generous gifts on December 6th.  

Many children put a boot called Nikolaus-Stiefel (Nikolaus boot) outside the front door on the night of December, 5. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts and sweets overnight, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good, polite and helpful the last year. If they were not, they would have a stick in their boots instead.  

When Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, came along, he wanted to get rid of the Catholic elements of Christmas and Sankt Nickolaus got name Christkindl. Later Christkindl was replaced by der Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man)  So in other parts of the country Weinachtsman brings presents to the children the night before Christmas. 

Père Noël ,  France 

French Santa is Père Noel and translated as Father Christmas. Père Noel traditionally gives gifts to well-mannered and good children and brings the rods to the naughty and lazy on the Eve of December 24 or on the morning of December 25.  

Also, Saint Nicolas is a traditional Christmas figure in France. On December 6, he comes with a little donkey, who carries baskets filled with children’s gifts, biscuits and sweets. Grandparents tell stories to children about Saint Nicolas. People bake spiced gingerbread biscuits and mannala. In schools, children learn songs and poems and create arts and crafts about St. Nicolas.  

In France New Year’s Eve is celebrated with friends in a restaurant, and often even just on the streets with champagne, fireworks, fun and music. 

Father Christmas , United Kingdom  

Father Christmas is the traditional English name for Santa Claus and was established in the late Victorian period. 

Father Christmas first appeared in the mid 17th century in the outcome of the English Civil War.  

Children sincerely believe that Father Christmas leaves presents in stockings or pillowcases. These are normally hung up by the fireplace or the children’s beds on Christmas Eve. Children sometimes leave out mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas to eat and drink when he visits them. 

Children write letters to Father Christmas, but sometimes instead of putting them in the post, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draught carries the letters up the chimney, and Father Christmas reads the smoke.  

Christmas Trees were first popularized in the United Kingdom by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert was German, and thought that it would be good to use one of his ways of celebrating Christmas in England. 

In the United Kingdom decorating Christmas trees together and has a family feast become tradition. 

Babbo Natale, Italy

Babbo Natale, version of Santa Claus and he is very popular character in Italy. 

He leaves his sled on the roof and sneaks into every house through the chimney. He brings the gifts to good children and coals for the bad ones on the night of Christmas Eve or during the early morning hours of Christmas Day. People often leave milk and sweets for him. 

Also, in Italy, children are waiting for the fairy Befana who delivers gifts on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way to St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. She usually rides a broomstick and wearing a black shawl. She enters houses through the chimney and brings sweets and toys for children. 

Joulupukki , Finland

Joulupukki is Finland’s Santa Claus. He lives in Lapland, on the Korvatunturi mountain. 

The Finnish Santa Claus has a wife Joulumuori (“Old Lady Christmas”) and assistants, gnomes. Throughout the year gnomes carefully listen to what wishes little children make and just before New Year’s Eve they sort and arrange presents. On Christmas night, Joulupukki comes to them, while they are asleep and leaves generous gifts for good kids and he brings rods for naughty ones. 

In Finland, most children sincerely believe in Joulupukki. Kids write letters to him before Christmas telling about how good and kind they have been. Since 1985, the Joulupukki’ Main Post Office in Rovaniemi at the Arctic Circle has received more than 18 million letters. 

Kersfees Vader, South Africa

In South Africa people celebrate Christmas on December 24th and 25th but instead of snowflakes they have blooming flowers, beautiful butterflies, bees and the sun. It is very hot and sunny weather in South Africa. 

Santa Claus is known as Father Christmas, Sinterklaas or Kersfees Vade. Children always wait for desirable presents from Kersfees Vader and leave out stockings on Christmas Eve. 

Carol sings and candlelight services on Christmas Day are very popular in towns and cities. Often, families make BBQ, lots of salads and roast meat for the festive dinner. They go swimming, camping, play games and enjoy the outdoors. 

Santa-San, Japan 

Only last few decades, people in Japan started to celebrate Christmas and is not a religious holiday. Christmas for Japanese people is more a romantic celebration and time to spread happiness. Couples spend time together, go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and displays, have a dinner in a restaurant and exchange presents.  

In Tokyo, very popular is visiting Disneyland and seeing all the Christmas decorations and the parades. 

Children often have a party, with games and dancing. Japanese Christmas Cake is decorated with trees, lovely flowers and a figure of Santa Claus. 

In Japan Santa is known as Santa-San (Mr Santa), but Japanese god Hoteiosho delivers generous gifts for kids. God Hoteiosho is an admirable character with eyes on the back of his head. He is portrayed as a kind grandfather carrying a huge bag with presents.  

New Year is a very big celebration in Japan and families have a special meal and pray. At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples ring their bells a total of 108 times. The Japanese believe the ringing of bells can rid their wrongs of the outgoing year. The bell is rung 107 times on the December 31st and 108th past midnight. 

Santa Claus, New Zealand 

In New Zealand Christmas comes in the middle of the summer holidays. Christmas traditions have appeared through the English settlers who came to New Zealand in the late 18th Century.  

In the last 30 years the name of the Father Christmas character had changed and he became Santa Claus.  

Many towns have a colorful Santa parade. It is very hot in New Zealand and sometimes Santa can wear “jandals” (sandals). 

Children leave out carrots for Santa’s reindeer and beer and pineapple chunks for Santa! 

Lots of people spend their time on the beach or camping for Christmas and have a barbecue for Christmas lunch is very popular. 

Shen Dan Lao Ren, China 

In China, only around one percent of people are Christians, hence most people know a few things about Christmas. 

“Trees of Light” are an interesting analogue of Christmas tree. Only a few people have a Christmas Tree at home, but most people can see them in shopping malls. Christmas trees lavishly decorate in the oriental way with lanterns, glowing lights and garlands. 

Santa Claus is called Sheng Dan Lao Ren (Old Christmas Man). Kids always waiting for him to come to their homes and hang stockings on the walls, where Sheng Dan Lao Ren places his incredible gifts  for them.

Christmas Eve is the biggest shopping day of the year. Most young couples go to Christmas parties and give presents to each other, like on Valentine’s Day. Ice skating and amusement parks are popular destinations as well. 

Merry Christmas and

Happy New Year !

25 thoughts on “Santa around the world.

  1. Very interesting Angela! Here in South Africa, we also call him Father Christmas (in my home language, it would be “Kersfees Vader”) … and he will have to put on shorts and a t-shirt this year, we’re in the middle of summer and have long and sunny days 🌞

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ahh Angela, that’s so sweet! That picture of Kersfees Vader is exactly how he will arrive here in Langebaan, South Africa (on a SUP on the lagoon!) And the description of how we celebrate Christmas, is 100% correct … Well done 🌞

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for responding ! I’m so happy that I lift up the mood a little bit! I love this festive atmosphere and let’s celebrate it!
      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!


  2. Great post!!! In Belgium children also celebrate Sinterklaas… it is very similar to the Netherlands. Except that here, the children find their presents on the 6th of December. December is a good month for children in Belgium because there are also the Xmas presents 😁😁😁

    Liked by 2 people

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