Santas all around the world

Around the world, there are many versions of “Santa Claus” used to celebrate Christmas such as trolls, spirits, and even demons.
The United States isnt the only place with an Icon for Christmas, but Santa is different all around the world.
The United States isn’t the only place with an Icon for Christmas, but “Santa” is different all around the world.
Photo Credit: Photo by Samantha Ashton

On December 25th, Christmas is celebrated around the world. In the United States, Santa is a big jolly man that comes down the chimney, but in other countries what is known as “Santa” is different.

Similar Santas The Christkind, Father Christmas, and La Befana are similar to the American Santa Claus. However, they also have their differences. Father Christmas is from the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other places as well. He was originally known to be the spirit of good tidings and joy, like “The Ghost of Christmas Present” from A Christmas Carol. But in later years, Father Christmas became a lot like Santa Claus. The Christkind is from places such as Germany, Austria, Italy and Brazil. Christkind means “the Christ child” and his job is also to give gifts without being seen. He never makes an appearance and children are told that he disappears just before they arrive. La Befana, the witch from Italy, is similar to Santa Claus in style, but she looks different. She is a witch that flies on a broomstick in a black shawl. Another thing different from Santa Claus is that she often likes to whack people with broomsticks when they see her. La Befana travels and goes down chimneys to deliver gifts as well as coal to bad children. She is even said to sweep the chimney on her way out.

The Yule Lads The Yuletide Lads are a bunch of trolls used to celebrate Christmas in Iceland. They are 13 mischievous creatures and each have a certain trick to play. The Yule Lads are accompanied by their mother Grýla and the Yuletide Cat. The Yuletide Cat is a monstrous beast that walks around with the trolls and eats the bad children it finds. Grýla is part animal and part troll. She and her children come out before Christmas and as the trolls make mischief, she searches for naughty children to cook in her cauldron. Kids put their shoes by the window, and each night one troll will come and give candy to the good kids. The bad kids get potatoes. In the 13 days before Christmas the trolls come out of the mountains, along with their mother.

Stekkjarstaur (top left), Pottaskefill (bottom center), Bjúgnakrækir (far right), Skyrgámur (top center), and Giljagaur (bottom left) are five of the 13 trolls that come out to make mischief before Christmas in Iceland.
Photo Credit: Photo by Samantha Ashton used with permission
Stekkjarstaur (top left), Pottaskefill (bottom center), Bjúgnakrækir (far right), Skyrgámur (top center), and Giljagaur (bottom left) are five of the 13 trolls that come out to make mischief before Christmas in Iceland.

The first of the trolls is Stekkjarstaur or Sheep Cote Clod. He is a troll with peg legs and he enjoys harassing sheep. Another troll is Giljagaur or Gully Gawk, who is famous for hiding in gullies and waiting for the chance to steal milk from the cowshed. There is also Stúfur (Stubby), who is a short troll that likes to steal pans and eat the crust out of them. The trolls Þvörusleikir (Spoon Licker), Pottaskefill (Pot Licker), and Askasleikir (Bowl Licker) like to steal kitchen utensils and lick them. Gáttaþefur (Door Sniffer) has a big nose in which he uses to sniff out Laufabrauo, traditional Icelandic bread, through the door and Hurðaskellir (Door Slammer) slams doors to make noise at night. Gluggagægir (Window Peeper), likes to look through windows to find things to take and Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Swiper) hides in rafters and steals smoking sausages. Skyr is a type of yogurt that Skyrgámur (Skyr Gobbler) loves to eat and Ketkrókur (Meat Hook) is a troll that uses a hook to take meat. Lastly, the 13th troll is known as Kertasníkir (Candle Stealer) who likes to follow children so that he can take candles and eat them. Another group of trolls were known as the Tomte. They were originally small characters that looked over family farms. They were very kind, but they had short fuses and were quick to beat up or play tricks on those who weren’t good to the farmland. Tomte changed over time, and they were given more human-like features as well as becoming more traditional. The Tomte is said to live in the woods, unlike Santa who lives in the North Pole. They also ride sleighs that don’t fly. Lastly, instead of climbing down a chimney, a relative or family member dresses up as the Tomte and delivers gifts to the children.

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Santa and His Sidekicks In some places around the world, Santa isn’t the only one coming during Christmas time, but Santa has “relatives” or another creature to help him. However, these sidekicks aren’t necessarily “nice.” They were meant to scare children into being good, for they represented the naughty side. Belsnickel is Santa’s cousin, who comes from Austria, Germany, Argentina, and even parts of the United States (Pennsylvania). Belsnickel joins Santa in certain regions of Europe. Unlike Santa Claus, Belsnickel is feared by children and he is a disciplinarian. He is a “mountain man” with fur covering his body. He also occasionally wears a mask with a long tongue sticking out. Belsnickel represents a type of warning for children to be good. On December 6th, Belsnickel also gives candy to the good children and coal or switches to naughty children in Germany. Another famous character associated with Santa is Krampus, which is German for “claw.” He comes from Austria, Germany, and Hungary.

A man is dressed as the famous Christmas character, Belsnickel from Germany, Austria, and Argentina.
Photo Credit: Photo via under the Creative Commons License
A man is dressed as the famous Christmas character, Belsnickel from Germany, Austria, and Argentina.

Krampus is described as a terrifying, bloodthirsty, monstrous creature. His job is to dish out beatings to naughty kids along with other medieval punishments. If kids were naughty enough, he even sometimes kidnapped them. He’s been a character associated with Christmas for hundreds of years but he became a popular figure in the 1800’s. Today, people in Bavaria and Austria celebrate a day called “Krampus Day” or “Krampustag.” Celebrated on December 5th, people dress up as the legendary character and walk through cities to scare people. Other places also hold festivals to celebrate this creature’s history.

Pere Noel and La Pere Fouettard is known as the duo that comes from France. Papa Noel is a popular version of St. Nick. Instead of riding reindeer, he rides a donkey named Gui (mistletoe in French). La Pere Fouettard is known as the “whipping father.” In the 1100s, La Pere Fouettard and his wife kidnapped and murdered three young men and then cooked them and when St. Nicholas brought them back to life, La Pere Fouettard vowed to serve as his helper. While Pere Noel delivers small gifts and candy, he carries chains and beats misbehaving children. In other cases, La Pere Fouettard cuts out the tongues of kids who were caught lying. Sinterklaas and Black Peter are yet another two characters used to celebrate Christmas in the Netherlands and Flanders. Sinterklaas closely resembles the traditional North American Santa Claus in looks. However, Sinterklaas comes to the Netherlands in late November by ship. He is accompanied by Black Peter, who helps give out gifts rather than punishment. In older versions Black Peter would kidnap bad kids, but he now climbs down the chimney to deliver gifts to the good and coal or salt to the bad.

Lastly, the two characters known as Ded Moroz and the Snow Maiden are used to celebrate Christmas in Russia, Serbia, Bosnia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Poland, and other former Soviet republics. “Ded Moroz”, meaning Grandfather Frost, rides in a horsedrawn sled with a red costume. He was once an evil sorcerer who demanded that kids give him presents as a ransom after kidnapping them. He evolved into a gift-giver to make up for his wicked times. Ded Moroz is accompanied by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden. Rather than coming for Christmas day, he comes for New Years to deliver his gifts under the New Year’s tree. He may sometimes even show up at parties to deliver gifts in person.

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About the Contributor
Samantha Ashton
Samantha Ashton, Fall Reporter
Samantha Ashton is currently a freshman at Colonia High School. She loves the sports: volleyball and softball. She also enjoys creative writing. Some of her favorite novels are The Fault IN Our Stars (TFIOS), The Maze Runner, and the Divergent Series. Her favorite type of genre would be teen fiction and her hobbies include hanging with friends and watching movies.

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