Santa Claus Around the World

Santa Claus Around the WorldSanta Claus Around the World is known by different names.  Imagine you could magically circle the globe on Christmas Eve in search of Santa Claus? Even though you can't, you can follow Santa's journey online and learn more about him in different parts of the world.

 

You will need to know what in the world to call him no matter where in the world you find yourself.  Let’s not try to memorize all the tongue-twisters used in other countries.   We can stick to translations. 

 

Father Spanking is Coming to Town. Kids in Paris, Texas might start to cry but children in Paris, France would sport a merry smile.   Father Spanking or “Le Pere Fouettard “is an assistant to Father Christmas, or "Pere Noel" in France.   Legend says his job is to visit the naughty youngsters and help them get their names on the “nice” list. 

In Latvia you must ask for “Christmas Pop”, while “Christmas Man” or Kerstman is the name shouted gleefully by children in Flanders and the Netherlands.  “Father Christmas” is heard in the United Kingdom, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Romania.   In Hungary they say “Old Man Winter”.

Santa’s around the world have names that can be hard to say.  The “Christmas Old Man” translates to “Ong gia Noel” in Vietnam and “Thatha” in India.  In Japan its “santa-san” which if you’re western means “Mr. Santa “to you.  “Papa Noel” is used in Lebanon and Egypt and in South Africa and other places it’s “Sinterklaas”. 

In Liechtenstein old St. Nick visits neighborhood homes starting the first week of December.  He makes careful notes in an oversized book while the children assure him of their year-long good behavior.  St. Nick will give small gifts before he leaves to tell the “Christmas Angel” what the children want for Christmas.

Candies, presents, and fruit are placed in children’s shiny boots in Croatia.  St. Nick’s assistant, “Krampus”, will leave a golden twig for naughty kids along with candies.   The twig serves a reminder and a warning that you better be good for goodness sake.

In many countries like Ukraine or Poland, St. Nicholas is seen as a very proper church leader.  Normally wearing the clothes of a Bishop and armed with a gold staff he walks the countryside.    Sometimes a white horse will pull a sleigh from one village to the next.

Excited children are expected to demonstrate their catechism knowledge and repeat memorized prayers.   Spices and honey are in the cookies he distributes along with oranges and apples.  

While the children are opening gifts after Christmas dinner it is common for St. Nick to visit again.  He will ask questions; check on their conduct, and then slips away to stop at the next home.

The Netherlands actually televise the arrival of St. Nicholas.  He arrives by ship at a different port city each year.  Sinterklaas is welcomed by the Mayor and leads a grand parade riding on a white horse in front of bands and floats.

Dressed as a Bishop he will visit shops, homes, hospitals and schools to hear the earnest gift wishes of the children.  Busy Bakers all over the country make spice cookies shaped like St. Nick.  It is virtually the national scent of Christmas.  Traditionally the kids leave carrots and hay for his horse. 

Those gifts and their Christmas lists are stuffed into their shoes or boots and lined up on a windowsill.  In the morning eager children rush to the sill to find coins of chocolate, small gifts, candies, and even a note from St. Nick.  They squeeze their eyes hoping they will not find tiny bags of salt or coal.

The Dutch will hide gifts and create maps with clues.   Sometimes the presents are hidden inside clothing or even a potato.  Included with the gift is a funny poem cheerfully poking fun at the person and they are usually given from “Sinterklaas” to add to the mirth.  

This is a great tradition where originality is valued over the price tag.  No matter where you go in the world there is a legend of the gift-giver, of Santa Claus.   The spirit of Christmas delivers a message as universal as a Dutch present.    We profit from our shared relationships and traditions.  We know our wealth is measured in friendships and family.  

It does not matter how many titles mankind has created for Santa’s around the world.  It only matters that when children call his name out loud that it echoes the magic of the season and vibrates with comfort and joy.


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Photo Credit: Donna62

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