Santa Claus across cultures

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In America, a figure known as Santa Clause is the person who delivers presents on his sleigh pulled by 8 reindeer, but in different cultures their take on Santa differs as far as things like gnomes known as “Tomte,” to a group of 13 bloodthirsty monsters, to even a goat.

Some European Christmas traditions are newer. For example, in Iceland, the 13 monsters that are “sometimes depicted as bloodthirsty baby eaters, and sometimes depicted as mischievous gift bringers.” Each monster has a unique name that translates to the pranks they like to pull, like “Gluggagaegirwhich means “window peeper.” These little creatures were started in the 1930’s and leave treats in kids shoes in the 13 days that lead up to Christmas and rotten potatoes in the shoes of kids who have been bad, also in the Catalonia region of Spain there is an even newer tradition, of painting a log named “Tió de Nadal,” the children then beat the log with sticks and it “defecates presents for them the next morning.”

Also, there are many countries that just have Santa with a little aesthetic twist. Such as Britain’s “Father Christmas” and France’s “Papa Noelle.” There are also countries like Russia with “Grandpa Frost” and the Dutch “Sinterklasse” who we derive Santa Clause from.

Other traditions however, are older and more religious like the German “Christkind” which translates to “the Christ Child.” This started in the 1500’s when Martin Luther wanted Christmas to be even more religious. He is portrayed as a little blonde baby with wings and he flies down and drops off gifts. Sometimes an angel is shown bringing gifts, as it would be weird  if a baby Jesus was dropping off gifts in peoples houses. This is also the tradition of the other German speaking countries such as Austria and Switzerland.

However, there are even stranger things than a horde of monsters leaving potatoes for your children, like in the Nordic countries where there are little gnome creatures that like to play tricks, and hide in the woods. They are believed to be no taller than 90 cm and easily angered and quick to fight, and in Finland where the “Yule Goat,” Joulupukki goes door to door hand out presents to all the good children.

Let’s take a break from Europe and visit Japan. In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but more of a way to spread happiness and give gifts. The Japanese gift bringer is Hoteiosho, a Japanese god of good fortune who isn’t involved in Christianity. However, other Asian countries such as South Korea, India, and Indonesia have a small minority of Christian’s who’s Christmas gift bringers are Santa Claus.

Christmas is a time of fun for Children all over Europe, and most of the world as they wake up to find what’s under the tree, in their shoe, or what the log left for them. Many cultures have their own Christmas gift bringers, but all of them bring gifts to eager children.

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