7 names for Santa Claus around the world
7 names for Santa Claus around the world
No matter where you celebrate Christmas – in Lapland or in Argentina, in Japan or in Australia, the most awaited holiday of the year cannot be without the beloved figure of Santa Claus. Santa Claus is specific to the Western culture and is known for bringing gifts to well-behaved children on Christmas Eve. There are multiple historical or mythical figures providing a basis for the old man sneaking through the chimney and offering presents to children: Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas – a Greek bishop, the German Christkind, the Dutch Sinterklaas also based on Saint Nicholas, and the Germanic god Wodan, among others. The common version of Santa Claus emerged in North America in the 19th century, and the image of the white-bearded joyous man has been taken over by multiple cultures. Here are 7 versions of Santa Claus throughout the world:
1. Papai Noel – Brazil
In Brazil, Christmas comes in the summertime, so Papai Noel dresses in a silk suit that matches hot temperatures a lot better. According to the Brazilian legend, Papai Noel lives in Greenland and each year he lands with a helicopter on the Maracana soccer stadium in the acclamation of thousands of Rio children. The symbol of Christmas enters the house through the front door rather than through the fireplace (which is uncommon in a warm country like Brasil) and leaves candy and small gifts in children’s shoes.
2. Dun Che Lao Ren (Christmas Old Man) – China
Even if Christmas is not specific to the Chinese culture, the largest people on Earth do celebrate this popular holiday. The time when Santa Claus comes is called in China the Spring Festival, when people pay respects to their ancestors and children receive toys and new clothes. Christian Chinese children hang stocking for Santa Claus to fill them with gifts and also decorate Christmas trees called “Trees of Light”. The figure of Santa Claus in China is similar to the one of Laughing Buddha, who also wears red clothing and offers gifts. However, the latter is active all year long.
3. Père Noël
Père Noël brings gifts to children in French-speaking areas and is pretty much the same as the English version, wearing red clothes, living at the North Pole, and has a group of reindeers. Children in France leave their shoes by the fireplace and fill them with carrots and treats for Gui, Père Noël’s donkey. If the child has behaved well, Père Noël will leave small presents instead.
4. Babbo Natale – Italy
Babbo Natale is gaining popularity in Italy along the traditional La Befana, the old woman who delivers gifts on Janaury 6 (on Epiphany). Unlike Santa Claus, Babbo Natale is skinnier and more elegant; his reindeers are called Cometa, Ballerina, Fulmine, Donnola, Freccia, Saltarello, Donato, and Cupido and help him give gifts to children before La Befana arrives.
5. Moș Crăciun – Romania
The Romanian Santa Claus is very similar to the Western figure – he comes down the chimney and brings presents to children, but there is also a legend that suggests Moș Crăciun was not always such a nice guy. Apparently, Virgin Mary asked Moș Crăciun’s wife, Mrs. Claus, for shelter. She agreed, but because her husband was a cruel person, accommodated her in the stable without his knowledge. Moș Crăciun finds out the truth and he cuts his wife’s hands as a punishment. Virgin Mary works a miracle and puts her hands back in place. Moș Crăciun is amazed and asks for forgiveness from God. His deep atonement has determined him to give his entire fortune to poor children and make presents every year on Christmas Eve.
6. Άγιος Βασίλης (Agios Vassilis) – Greece
Unlike the Western Santa Claus, Agios Vassilis brings gifts on New Year’s Eve. He is based on St Basil, a kind man who used to help poor people when he was bishop in Caesarea. However, St Basil looked completely different from Santa Claus – he was thin and tall and had a black beard. It is not known exactly how Agios Vassilis became the Greek Santa Claus, but one thing is for sure -he would offer gifts first to the needy and then to all children and adults. Furthermore, the sweet bread served on New Year’s Eve in Greece is called after Agios Vassilis – Vassilopita.
7. Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) – Russia
Ded Moroz, also called Dedushka Moroz (diminutive), brings gifts to children on New Year’s Eve, accompanied by Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), his granddaughter and helper. Ded Moroz is the only version that has a female helper and is also different due to the blue color of his coat. The figure of Ded Moroz has influenced multiple countries in the Eastern bloc and ex-Sovietic space, such as Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazahstand, Poland, in Ukraine, and others. However, most of these cultures already had the traditional figure of Santa Claus and versions of Ded Moroz were imposed forcefully by Communist regimes.
Regardless of his name, Santa Claus continues to bring gifts to children all over the world during winter holidays and is expected with the same eagerness each year.