Santas Around the World
Most Americans tend to think of Santa Claus as a large, jolly old man with a beard in a red suit. However, this “Jolly Old Saint Nick” is only one version of the man who delivers toys and goodies to kids for Christmas. Ever wonder what Santa Claus is called in different countries around the world, or even what he looks like? Many countries celebrate Christmas with different traditions, and their Santa’s look different too.
England – Father Christmas
Father Christmas first appeared as a character in Christmas His Masque, a 1616 play. When Father Christmas first began showing up in illustrations, he wore many different colored robes, including green, purple, blue, and brown. Today, Father Christmas closely resembles the American Santa; a jolly, well-nourished, white bearded man in a fur-lined robe. However, the traditional British Father Christmas still wears a green cloak, a wreath of holly or ivy, and carries a staff.
Spain – Los Reyes Magos
In Spain, well-behaved children are visited by not one, but three men. These men are known as Los Reyes Magos, or the three wise men (or magi). In the days leading up to El Dia de Reyes, children write letters to their favorite mago – Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar.
France – Pere Noel
The French Santa Claus has a unique sense of style. Instead of the traditional red hat, Pere Noel has a fur-lined hood on his fashionable long cloak. Instead of leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, children leave carrots and treats for Pere Noel’s flying donkey, Gui (that’s French for “mistletoe!”)
Germany – Weihnachtsmann
There are actually dozens of different names used for the German Santa Claus, depending on the different regions of the country. The four most popular names are Weihnachtsmann, Klaus, Nickel, and Niglo. Germans also celebrate Niklolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day on December 6. Instead of elves, St. Nick is accompanied by more frightening characters known as Aschenmann, Bartl, Boozenickel, Hans Trapp, Klaubauf, Belsnickel/Pelznickel, Ruhklas, and Knecht Ruprecht.
Netherlands – Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas is the Dutch version of Santa Claus who most resembles St. Nick. He wears a tall, red bishop’s hat and carries a jeweled staff. After riding into town on white horse, Sinterklaas knocks on doors to bring gifts to good little boys and girls.
Sweden – Tomte or Jultomten
Sweden’s version of Santa is traditionally a dwarf-like creature found in Swedish folklore. On Christmas, an adult family member dons a red robe and a Tomte facemask before distributing gifts to all the children.
These cultural Christmas traditions have us feeling inspired to travel and learn! WorldStrides provides students with cultural experiences of all kinds in over 100+ countries around the world. Wherever your travels take you this season, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!