It’s Christmastime again, and in a few short weeks a plush man in red will fly down your chimney and give you gifts. As Americans, we tend to all have the same image of Santa Claus in our head. A jolly, round man, dressed in a red suit, with a white beard, and love for cookies and milk. That image is reinforced in one of the most well known pieces of American literature, “A Visit From St Nicolas,” by Clement Clarke Moore. Plenty of us can recite the first few lines-or maybe even the whole poem. The poem was first recited by the author to six of his nine children in 1822 and published the following Christmas season. This poem lays out many of the Christmas legends, and Santa Claus’s iconic image, that is still spread around today.
However, Santa Claus is not the only person who gives gifts this holiday season. Enjoy this small list of legends who deliver presents to children around the globe.
Sinterklaas: Sinterklaas is a Dutch tradition, much like Santa Claus is to American children. In fact, Santa Claus is a direct descendant of Sinterklaas. Like Santa, Sinterklaas has a long white beard and wears a red cape. Sinterklaas brings gifts to children on December 5th, rather than Christmas Eve. This is because December 6th is St Nicolas’s Day. The gifts from Sinterklaas are sometimes put in shoes, which is similar to Santa placing gifts in stockings. Part of the Sinterklaas tradition includes singing songs for Sinterklaas. Like Santa, Sinterklaas also has elves. Each of his elves is referred to as “Black Peter.”
Befana: Befana is a witch that delivers toys to Italian children and her story is an interesting one. After the baby Jesus was born, the three wise men stopped to ask Befana for directions. Befana does not give the directions, but begins to regret it after they’ve left. So, she decides, as her way of repenting, to find the baby Jesus and to give him a present, like the Three Wise Men were on their way to do. But of course, she can’t find the baby Jesus! So, she continues to search for him today. On the night of every January 5th, she gives gifts to all the children, in hopes that one of them will be the baby Jesus.
Ded Moroz: Ded Moroz is another variation of Santa Claus that is seen in Russia. The holiday tradition was first performed in 1937. Years earlier, after the Bolshevik Revolution, Christmas and all it’s festivities were banned in Russia. Fast forward to 1937 when top Russian officials decided that a winter festivity was needed, Ded Moroz was born! The name “Ded Moroz” translates to Father Frost. Ded Moroz comes out during New Year rather than Christmas, to avoid any religious affiliation. To further estrange Ded Moroz from other Christmas characters, he is dressed in blue robes, rather than red. Ded Moroz’s helper is his granddaughter, Snegurochka, which translates to the Snow Maiden.
Christkind: Christkind is a German tradition. Christkind is depicted as an angelic woman, rather than a large bearded man. She wears a gold and white dress, and has curly blonde hair. Gift giving is done on December 5th, like Sinterklaas. Also like Sinterklaas, Christkind places gifts in shoes.
Did you learn something new? Do you have a new favorite Santa Claus? Tell us about it on Twitter or in the comments below!