Ho, Ho, Ho!
December is almost upon us boys and girls, and that can only mean one thing - Santa Claus is coming to town. Regardless of whether or not you're nine years of age or 90, that's something to get excited about because the thrill of Christmas should be experienced by all different kinds of people both young and old.
The tradition goes that Santa brings presents to us whilst we're tucked up in bed sleeping, and isn't that just a lovely thought? Yes, not everyone enjoys this holiday and understandably so, but that doesn't mean that the rest of us can't enjoy it. In fact, we've done some research, and it turns out that there are a multitude of other versions fo Santa that people enjoy around the world.
Now when it comes to the title, we don't mean that these traditions don't make sense to everyone - just that there are some people out there who may look at them and think "huh, that's different". We're here to try and educate the masses to the best of our ability and if we miss anything out or there's more information you'd like to provide, please let us know.
We may not officially have entered December yet but the festive atmosphere is in the air for many folks, and we couldn't be happier about that. It's the best time of year to be with your family and enjoy every aspect of this wonderful holiday, and it prepares us all for a brand new year full of endless possibilities in 2019.
23 Krampus - Half Goat, Half Demon (Central Europe)
This isn’t going to be the most pleasant of entries, and trust us when we tell you that we picked a good photo above all the potential other ones. Krampus is half goat, half demon and deals with children who misbehave – and while Santa doesn’t want children to misbehave either, we can’t imagine that he agrees with his methods.
Krampus is arguably one of the most notable examples on this list because he is ‘celebrated’ far and wide, often by folks who enjoy the darker side of the holidays. We aren’t ones to criticise by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly a bit odd.
22 Ded Moroz - The Ice Santa (Russia)
Ded Moroz is certainly one of the more glamorous additions to this list, donning a light blue attire with snowflakes in some instances – although in others, that is reserved for Snegurochka.
She is his granddaughter who goes around helping him, and she tends to be wearing the blue attire more often than not as well as a snowflake-like crown. The translation of Ded Moroz is Grandfather Frost and his aim is to bring presents to children who behave, and as opposed to doing so on Christmas Eve, he does so on New Year’s Eve in person, which is always quite a nice touch.
21 Mikulas - December 6th Santa (Hungary)
Mikulas is the Hungarian equivalent of Santa Claus, and as such, does things a little differently. He arrives on December 6th and leaves long before Christmas, delivering presents to children across the country of Hungary.
Children put a put on their windowsill and await the arrival of Mikulas, who will come along and fill it with all kinds of treats. He usually comes with two assistants in the form of a good angel and a mean elf or devil, who tend to interact with the good and children in equal measure.
Bad children may be given raw potatoes, too, which will almost certainly warn them off of being naughty the following year.
20 Belsnickel - A Spooky Alternative (Germany)
If you’ve ever watched The Office US, then you’ve probably seen Dwight playing the role of Belsnickel. That should give you a base idea of what we’re dealing with here.
He is a gift bringing figure but he has a very different appearance to Santa Claus, and tends to have a different kind of temperament too. While Santa has quite a warm approach, Belsnickel is known for being theatrical and quite intimidating to a lot of children.
It’s a very old-school kind of tradition but we kind of like that, mainly because it offers up something different to the norm.
19 Olentzero - Captain Big Head (Basque Country)
Olentzero gives off the appearance of the Big Friendly Giant in some instances, when the truth of the matter is just that he’s really friendly. He is celebrated in Basque Country and arrives to town late on the 24th of December, dropping off presents to children as they begin their Christmas festivities.
Sometimes he can arrive later on between the 27th and 31st, but regardless of that, he’s known as being a calm and mild-mannered figure which is always pleasant. Oh, and he’s called ‘big head’ in some cultures too, and we’re going to assume that’s more of a backhanded compliment.
18 Papa Noel - The Gift Bringer (France)
Papa Noel, or Père Noel, is the official title for Santa Claus over in the country of France. They’re a little bit different with their musical taste for Santa over there and they ensure that they give him traditional French snacks, which sounds like a lovely deal in our book.
He is simply known as the gift bringer by many and visits the country of France and French-speaking areas, although he seems to leave the handy work of the rest of the world to good old Santa Claus himself. Are they the same? Are they different? Either way, it’s a fun little mystery to have.
17 Yule Lads - Thirteen Pranksters (Iceland)
Ah, the Yule Lads. Based on the name and appearance alone you’d think that they were football hooligans, but alas, their story is actually quite intriguing. They come from Icelandic folklore and their initial ‘purpose’ was that of naughty little pranksters, but over time, they’ve grown into figures that take on a similar kind of role to Santa himself.
The magic number is believed to be thirteen, and we can’t help but think a big screen film of their story would be really fun to watch. Sure, they’re a bit ominous, but the same could be said of many different traditions.
16 Blue Santa - The Real Santa (United States)
Back in the early noughties, a team of archaeologists in Akron discovered a small ‘toy’ or figure of a man that looked suspiciously like Santa Claus – although he was wearing a blue hooded coat instead of his traditional green.
He is believed to be the ‘real’ Santa Claus in the eyes of many over there and they celebrate him as such, and they’re intent on getting their message out there. In addition to the operation in Austin which intends to provide families with gifts around the city, the story of Blue Santa continues to spread far and wide for all to hear.
15 Tio de Nadal - A Big Log (Catalonia)
If you’ve ever eaten a Christmas log before, then there’s a good chance that it steps from Tio de Nadal. Essentially, it’s a big log or piece of wood from the world of Catalan mythology, and it tends to find its home across the region throughout the holidays.
On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the family will order the Tio to go #2 (yes, it’s as weird as it sounds) and will pray for many, many gifts to be brought to them and those that they love.
The children usually go off to pray, allowing the presents to be put down
14 Knecht Ruprecht - Farmhand Into Assistant (Germany)
Tradition states that Knecht Ruprecht is a companion of Santa Claus, and that he goes around with him when he’s completing his gift-giving duties. He apparently asks some of the children whether or not they can pray, at which time a ‘yes’ will lead to them receiving gifts such as gingerbread, apples and nuts. Unfortunately, if they can’t, they may receive a bang on the head for their troubles. Pleasant, isn’t it?
Some believe that he’s quite strict on the naughty children and the same can be said of many others throughout this list, which is probably why good old Santa still gets all the plaudits.
13 Nisse - The Mischievous Spite (Norway)
We’re heading up to Scandinavia for our next entry, with the one and only Nisse – or Tomte over in Sweden. This creature from Nordic mythology is said to be a very small sprite, with a long white beard and a knit cap which certainly confirms its Christmas roots.
They are said to knock on houses on Christmas Eve handing out presents to children, and they will often be seen with a pig which is actually a popular symbol up in Scandinavia. Families will tend to leave some porridge with butter for the Nisse/Tomte as a thank you for their work, before they move on to the next home.
12 Green Santa - A Unique Take (Worldwide)
The common belief amongst many is that prior to the introduction of the Coca Cola Christmas adverts, which depicted Santa as wearing red attire, he formerly wore green. Many households throughout the world engage in this ideology and while it may not make much of a difference to some of us, it certainly does to others.
The colour green is considered to be much more ‘welcoming’ in a lot of ways and isn’t quite as intimidating as the colour red, which is why so many people prefer it. Who knows, maybe it’ll become more of a universal thing one day.
11 Befana - Pleasant Old Woman (Italy)
The Italians always tend to do things a little bit differently, and the same can be said of Christmas. Befana is believed to be an old woman from Italian folklore who delivers gifts to children on Epiphany Eve, in a very similar manner to Santa – although she flies around on a broom as opposed to a sleigh.
She’s often portrayed as a hag and is covered in soot, courtesy of the fact that she has to come down the chimney. Despite her appearance, though, she brings joy and happiness to many homes, with families leaving some wife behind for her which is always a nice touch.
10 Los Reyes Magos - The Wise Men (Spain)
We’ve all heard of the Three Wise Men bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh, visiting Jesus after his birth. Well, as it turns out, they’re exceptionally popular figures in a Spanish Christmas and serve as an important part of the yearly tradition.
As opposed to all of the stereotypical things that you’re likely to see and hear when it comes to the holidays, in Spain, you’ll see Los Reyes Magos being advertised far and wide. It’s a lovely reminder of the history behind Christianity for many, and it makes for a nice change of pace – especially if you’re used to something different.
9 Kanakaloka - Surfing Santa (Hawaii)
Christmas in Hawaii is all about having fun, relaxing and just generally embracing Hawaiian culture – and we can certainly appreciate that. Santa is known as Kanakaloka over there and doesn’t wear his traditional red and white suit, because instead, he enjoys some flowery Hawaiian clothing which we’ve all become so acquainted with in the media.
Kanakaloka is chilled out even at the worst of times, and it’s nice to promote that kind of message to the locals. Christmas is a time to forget about your troubles and embrace your family and those that you love, and Kanakaloka represents that perfectly.
8 Amu Nowruz - A Musical Addition (Iran)
Amu Norwuz, also known as Papa Nowruz, is an intriguing figure that tends to combine the beauty of Santa with the charm of your everyday wise old man. He has a felt hat, a walking stick and a long cloak, and is indeed considered to be a wise historical presence – and, of course, he brings gifts to children.
Amu Nowruz represents peace and purity in a manner that few others can, and he also had a very traditional love story with his wife Name Sarma. In fact, the legend goes that they can only meet each other once a year. Imagine the frustration.
7 St Nicholas - The Beginnings (Worldwide)
Saint Nicholas is the man who started it all, and he should be considered as such on a worldwide stage. He is a patron saint and he is known for secret gift-giving, eventually providing the inspiration to the popular Sinterklaas.
While little is supposedly known of him he was known to buy presents that were actually quite hard to come by, and he would give them out – with tradition stating that he did so on December 6th, which is why some nations have different celebrations on that day.
He was a gift-giving bishop at heart, and he’s not known as the Wonderworker for nothing.
6 Joulupukki - Christmas Goat (Finland)
Joulupukki is a popular figure in Finland, and the translation actually means ‘Christmas goat’ (not meant in the same manner as LeBron James). The belief is that it is a man turned into a goat man on Christmas Eve every year, with some even dressing in a goat costume throughout Finland.
He uses a walking stick and travels with reindeer although unlike Santa, his do not fly. He serves as a pagan tradition but the different variations of him throughout the country certainly intrigue us, mainly because it’s so diverse.
One thing is for sure, though: confusing him with Santa is a big mistake.
5 Shèngdànlǎorén - Sisters > Elves (China)
They celebrate Christmas in China more so than you may have initially thought, but in a slightly different manner. Children in China aren’t into the idea of an ‘illusion’ that Santa comes and goes without interacting with anyone, because they want to actually meet him.
Santa is usually accompanied by his sisters as opposed to elves, and they’re often dressed in traditional red and white skirts. The art of Christmas is always on full display, too, with Shèngdànlǎorén being at the core of the celebrations from the minute the tree goes up until it’s all packed away for yet another year.
4 Father Christmas - The Tradition (United Kingdom)
Father Christmas is the definition of a jolly figure, and that’s how the Brits like to celebrate him. They put a lot of emphasis on the tradition of milk, mince pies, cookies and other treats that he needs to fill up on, but most importantly, Father Christmas has a particular love for the art of gift giving.
The key is in his name as he feels like something of a father figure to many, and the same can’t be said for many other examples. His warm nature makes him a really fun representative of the United Kingdom, and you could even argue that he is the best representative for the entire planet.
3 Sinterklaas - A God-Like Figure (Netherlands)
Sinterklaas, without a doubt, is the best dressed of the entries on this list and while we aren’t exactly doing a catwalk here, that’s certainly important.
Sinterklaas is the individual who is assisted by the aforementioned Zwarte Piet, as he spreads joy and hope across the nation and beyond.
The gift giving here tends to occur on December 5th, which is actually much more common across Europe than you may think. He is known for riding a white horse and carries a big red book which features the standard naughty or nice list, although he is considered to be slightly more reserved in terms of his personality.
2 Christkind - A Beautiful Angel (Europe)
Christkind represents everything that is good and pure in this word, described by many as a beautiful sprite with angelic wings. Christkind is celebrated across Europe and is viewed as a traditional gift-bringer, seen as a specific angel that is separate to Jesus Christ himself.
Some believe that Christkind went around delivering gifts with St Nicholas, although Christkind is never seen. If the children attempt to see it then they won’t receive the presents, maintaining that sense of mystery which we love oh so much.
A tradition can often be the ringing of a small bell, which is done to indicate that Christkind has been and delivered the presents to the excitement of the children.
1 Mall Santas - They're everywhere (Worldwide)
Ah, Mall Santas. While this ‘tradition’ of sorts was made popular in the United States, it certainly feels like it has spread throughout every corner of the globe. It’s a great idea, too, because many different children are given the chance to meet the man who brings them so much joy every year.
Sometimes you can get folks on the job who are a little bit odd and that can easily ruin the illusion for some children, but it isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you’ll leave with your faith in the holidays being restored – even if you’re just a parent who has taken their child to the grotto.