The Twelve Days Of Christmas, Part 2
The History Of Santa Claus
Nearly everyone around the world has heard of Santa Claus in one form or another… be it as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or simply as “Santa”. This jolly ole fellow scoots around the world on Christmas Eve bring gifts to all the good children of the world… but where does this legendary icon come from?
One legend associated with Santa says that he lives in the far north, in a land of perpetual snow. The American version of Santa Claus says that he lives at his house on the North Pole, while Father Christmas is often said to reside in the mountains of Korvatunturi in Lapland Province, Finland. Santa Claus lives with his wife Mrs. Claus, a countless number of magical elves, and eight or nine flying reindeer. Another legend of Santa says that he makes a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior (“naughty” or “nice”) and that he delivers presents, including toys, candy, and other gifts to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.
Christians will speak of early Christian origins: Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus. He was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In Europe (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany) he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. In 1087, the Italian city of Bari, wanting to enter the profitable pilgrimage industry of the times, mounted an expedition to locate the tomb of the Christian Saint and procure the remains. The reliquary of St. Nicholas was desecrated by Italian sailors and the spoils, including his relics, taken to Bari where they are kept to this day. A basilica was constructed the same year to store the loot and the area became a pilgrimage site for the devout, thus justifying the economic cost of the expedition. Saint Nicholas became claimed as a patron saint of many diverse groups, from archers and children to pawnbrokers. He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Moscow. But there are even earlier references that are linked to the origins of our present-day Santa. And for that, we have to look farther North.
Numerous parallels have been drawn between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic peoples prior to their Christianization. Since many of these elements are unrelated to Christianity, there are theories regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions, surviving in various forms into modern depictions of Santa Claus.
Odin was sometimes recorded, at the native Germanic holiday of Yule, as leading a great hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland, the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus’s reindeer. Further, Odin was referred to by many names in Skaldic poetry, some of which describe his appearance or functions; these include Síðgrani, Síðskeggr, Langbarðr, (all meaning “long beard”) and Jólnir (“Yule figure”).
According to Phyllis Siefker, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or candy. This practice survived in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas as a result of the process of Christianization and can be still seen in the modern practice of the hanging of stockings at the chimney in some homes.
This practice in turn came to the United States through the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam prior to the British seizure in the 17th century, and evolved into the hanging of socks or stockings at the fireplace. In many regions of Austria and former Austro-Hungarian Italy (Friuli, city of Trieste) children are given sweets and gifts on Saint Nicholas’s Day (San Niccolò in Italian), in accordance with the Catholic calendar, December 6.
Originating from pre-Christian Alpine traditions and influenced by later Christianization, the Krampus is represented as a Companion of Saint Nicholas. Traditionally, some young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December and particularly on the evening of December 5 and roam the streets frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells.
In The Netherlands and Belgium, Saint Nicolas (often called “De Goede Sint” — “The Friendly Saint”) is aided by helpers commonly known as Zwarte Piet (“Black Peter”) in Dutch or “Père Fouettard” in French.
The folklore of Saint Nicolas has many parallels with Germanic mythology, in particular with the god Odin. These include the beard, hat and spear (nowadays a staff) and the cloth bag held by the servants to capture naughty children. Both Saint Nicolas and Odin ride white horses that can fly through the air; the white eight-legged steed of Odin is named Sleipnir (although Sleipnir is more commonly depicted as gray). The letters made of candy given by the Zwarte Pieten to the children evokes the fact that Odin ‘invented’ the rune letters. The poems made during the celebration and the songs the children sing relate to Odin as the god of the arts of poetry.
There are various explanations of the origins of the helpers. The oldest explanation is that the helpers symbolize the two ravens Hugin and Munin who informed Odin on what was going on. In later stories the helper depicts the defeated devil. The devil is defeated by either Odin or his helper Nörwi, the black father of the night. Nörwi is usually depicted with the same staff of birch (Dutch: “roe”) as Zwarte Piet.
Another, more modern, story is that Saint Nicolas liberated an Ethiopian slave boy called ‘Piter’ (from Saint Peter) from a Myra market, and the boy was so grateful he decided to stay with Saint Nicolas as a helper. With the influx of immigrants to the Netherlands starting in the late 1950s, this story is felt by some to be racist. Today, Zwarte Piet have become modern servants, who have black faces because they climb through chimneys, causing their skin to become blackened by soot. They hold chimney cleaning tools (cloth bag and staff of birch).
Until the Second World War, Saint Nicolas was only helped by one servant. When the Canadians liberated the Netherlands in 1945, they reinstated the celebrations of Sinterklaas for the children. Unaware of the traditions, the Canadians thought that if one Zwarte Piet was fun, several Zwarte Pieten is even more fun. Ever since Saint Nicolas is helped by a group of Zwarte Pieten.
Presents given during this feast are often accompanied by poems, some basic, some quite elaborate pieces of art that mock events in the past year relating to the recipient. The gifts themselves may be just an excuse for the wrapping, which can also be quite elaborate. The more serious gifts may be reserved for the next morning. Since the giving of presents is Sinterklaas’s job, presents are traditionally not given at Christmas in the Netherlands, although the latter is gaining popularity.
The Zwarte Pieten have roughly the same role for the Dutch Saint Nicolas that the elves have to America’s Santa Claus. According to tradition, the saint has a Piet for every function: there are navigation Pieten to navigate the steamboat from Spain to Holland, or acrobatic Pieten for climbing up the roofs to stuff presents through the chimney, or to climb through themselves. Throughout the years many stories have been added, mostly made up by parents to keep children’s belief in Saint Nicolas intact and to discourage misbehavior. In most cases the Pieten are quite lousy at their job, such as the navigation Piet (Dutch “wegwijspiet”) pointing in the wrong direction. This is often used to provide some simple comedy in the annual parade of Saint Nicolas coming to the Netherlands, and can also be used to laud the progress of children at school by having the Piet give the wrong answer to, for example, a simple mathematical question like 2+2, so that the child in question is (or can be) persuaded to give the right answer.
Because of his wisdom and sensitivity, many groups claimed St. Nicholas as their patron saint. Children, orphans, sailors, and even thieves often prayed to the compassionate saint for guidance and protection. Entire countries, including Russia and Greece, also adopted him as their patron saint, as well as students and pawnbrokers.
Throughout his life, St. Nicholas tried to help others while inspiring them to imitate his virtues. Legends of his unselfish giving spread all over Northern Europe, and accounts of his heroic deeds blended with regional folklore. Eventually, the image of the stately saint was transformed onto an almost mystical being, one known for rewarding the good and punishing the bad.
The date of his death, December 6th, was commemorated with an annual feast, which gradually came to mark the beginning of the medieval Christmas season. On St. Nicholas’ Eve, youngsters would set out food for the saint, straw for his horses and schnapps for his attendant. The next morning, obedient children awoke to find their gifts replaced with sweets and toys, found their offering untouched , along with a rod or a bundle of switched. St. Nicholas’ Day is still observed in many countries, and gifts are exchanged in honor of the spirit of brotherhood and charity that he embodied.
In the Netherlands and in Belgium the character of Santa Claus, as known in the United States (with his white beard, red and white outfit, etc.), is entirely distinct from Sinterklaas, known instead as de Kerstman in Dutch (trans. the Christmasman) or Père Noël (Father Christmas) in French. Although Sinterklaas is the predominant gift-giver in the Netherlands in December (36% of the population only give presents on Sinterklaas day), Christmas is used by another fifth of the Dutch population to give presents (21% give presents on Christmas only). Some 26% of the Dutch population give presents on both days. In Belgium, presents are given to children only, but to almost all of them, on Sinterklaas day. On Christmas day, everybody have presents, but often without Santa Claus’ help.
Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas and Sinterklaas, merged with the British character Father Christmas to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus. Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a jolly well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, and was reflected as the “Ghost of Christmas Present”, in Charles Dickens Festive classic “A Christmas Carol”, a great genial man in a green coat lined with fur who takes Scrooge through the bustling streets of London on the current Christmas morning, sprinkling the essence of Christmas onto the happy populace.
In other countries, the figure of Saint Nicholas was also blended with local folklore. As an example of the still surviving pagan imagery, in Nordic countries the original bringer of gifts at Christmas time was the Yule Goat, a somewhat startling figure with horns.
In the 1840s however, an elf in Nordic folklore called “Tomte” or “Nisse” started to deliver the Christmas presents in Denmark. The Tomte was portrayed as a short, bearded man dressed in gray clothes and a red hat. This new version of the age-old folkloric creature was obviously inspired by the Santa Claus traditions that were now spreading to Scandinavia. By the end of the 19th century this tradition had also spread to Norway and Sweden, replacing the Yule Goat. The same thing happened in Finland, but there the more human figure retained the Yule Goat name. But even though the tradition of the Yule Goat as a bringer of presents is now all but extinct, a straw goat is still a common Christmas decoration in all of Scandinavia.
In the British colonies of North America and later the United States, British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further. For example, in Washington Irving’s History of New York, (1809), Sinterklaas was Americanized into “Santa Claus” (a name first used in the American press in 1773) but lost his bishop’s apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat. Irving’s book was a lampoon of the Dutch culture of New York, and much of this portrait is his joking invention.
Some modern ideas of Santa Claus seemingly became canon after the publication of the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (better known today as “The Night Before Christmas“) in the Troy, New York, Sentinel on December 23, 1823 anonymously; the poem was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. Although many of his modern attributes are established in this poem, such as riding in a sleigh that lands on the roof, entering through the chimney, and having a bag full of toys, St. Nick is not described in this work as being a large man. Quite the contrary, he is depicted as a small elf. When he first appears in the poem, he is described as “a little old driver”; his sleigh is “miniature.” His reindeer (named for the first time in this poem) are “tiny.” Later in the poem, St. Nick’s mouth is described as “little” and he has a “little round belly.” He is a “jolly old elf.” Nowhere in the poem is he characterized as being the big guy that he is today.
As years pass, Santa evolves in popular culture into a large, heavyset person. One of the first artists to define Santa Claus’s modern image was Thomas Nast, an American cartoonist of the 19th century. In 1863, a picture of Santa illustrated by Nast appeared in Harper’s Weekly. While Saint Nicholas was originally portrayed wearing bishop’s robes, today Santa Claus is generally depicted as a plump, jolly, white-bearded man wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots. This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, and films. In the United Kingdom and Europe, his depiction is often identical to the American Santa, but he is commonly called Father Christmas.
The story that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole may also have been a Nast creation. His Christmas image in the Harper’s issue dated December 29, 1866 was a collage of engravings titled Santa Claus and His Works, which included the caption “Santa Claussville, N.P.” A color collection of Nast’s pictures, published in 1869, had a poem also titled “Santa Claus and His Works” by George P. Webster, who wrote that Santa’s home was “near the North Pole, in the ice and snow”. The legend had become well known by the 1870s. A boy from Colorado writing to the children’s magazine The Nursery in late 1874 said, “If we didn’t live so very far from the North Pole, I should ask Santa Claus to bring me a donkey.”
L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a 1902 children’s book, further popularized Santa Claus. Much of Santa Claus’s mythos was not set in stone at the time, leaving Baum to give his “Neclaus” (Necile’s Little One) a wide variety of immortal support, a home in the Laughing Valley of Hohaho, and ten reindeer which could not fly, but leapt in enormous, flight-like bounds. Claus’s immortality was earned, much like his title (“Santa”), decided by a vote of those naturally immortal. This work also established Claus’s motives: a happy childhood among immortals. When Ak, Master Woodsman of the World, exposes him to the misery and poverty of children in the outside world, Santa strives to find a way to bring joy into the lives of all children, and eventually invents toys as a principal means.
Images of Santa Claus were further popularized through Haddon Sundblom’s depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company’s Christmas advertising in the 1930s. The popularity of the image spawned urban legends that Santa Claus was invented by The Coca-Cola Company or that Santa wears red and white because they are the colors used to promote the Coca-Cola brand. Historically, Coca-Cola was not the first soft drink company to utilize the modern image of Santa Claus in its advertising – White Rock Beverages used Santa to sell mineral water in 1915 and then in advertisements for its ginger ale in 1923. Further, the Coca-Cola advertising campaign had the effect of popularizing the depiction of Santa as wearing red and white, in contrast to the variety of colors he wore prior to that campaign; red and white was originally given by Nast.
The image of Santa Claus as a benevolent character became reinforced with its association with charity and philanthropy, particularly by organizations such as the Salvation Army. Volunteers dressed as Santa Claus typically became part of fundraising drives to aid needy families at Christmas time.
The idea of a wife for Santa Claus may have been the creation of American authors, beginning in the mid-1800s. In 1889, the poet Katherine Lee Bates popularized Mrs. Claus in the poem “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride“. The 1956 popular song by George Melachrino, “Mrs. Santa Claus“, and the 1963 children’s book “How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas”, by Phyllis McGinley, helped standardize and establish the character and role in the popular imagination.
In some images from the early 20th century, Santa was depicted as personally making his toys by hand in a small workshop like a craftsman. Eventually, the idea emerged that he had numerous elves responsible for making the toys, but the toys were still handmade by each individual elf working in the traditional manner.
The concept of Santa Claus continues to inspire writers and artists, as in author Seabury Quinn’s 1948 novel Roads, which draws from historical legends to tell the story of Santa and the origins of Christmas. Other modern additions to the “mythology” of Santa include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the ninth and lead reindeer immortalized in a Gene Autry song, written by a Montgomery Ward copywriter.
The tradition of Santa Claus entering dwellings through the chimney may reach back to the tale of Saint Nicholas tossing coins through a window, and, in a later version of the tale, tossing coins down a chimney when he finds the window locked. In a well known story illustrating St, Nicholas’ benevolence, we find two of the basic principles of the holiday spirit – giving to others and helping the less fortunate – as well as the tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace. According to this legend, there were three Italian maidens whose families had fallen on hard times. Because their father could not afford the dowries necessary for them to marry, he was considering selling one of his daughters into slavery to get dowries for the other two. When the good saint heard of the family’s plight, he went to their home late one night and anonymously tossed three bags of gold down the chimney. Miraculously, a bag fell into each of the sisters stockings, were hanging by the fire to dry. His kindhearted gift made it possible for all three sisters to marry. A variation of this story is that as each girl was ready to wed, St. Nicholas came in the middle of the night when no one could see him and tossed a bag of gold through an open window into her stocking. The idea of gifts being delivered through an open window may have begun as a way to explain how Santa enters homes that have no chimney.
In Dutch artist Jan Steen’s painting, The Feast of Saint Nicholas, adults and toddlers are glancing up a chimney with amazement on their faces while other children play with their toys. The hearth was held sacred in primitive belief as a source of beneficence, and popular belief had elves and fairies bringing gifts to the house through this portal. Santa’s entrance into homes on Christmas Eve via the chimney was made part of American tradition through Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas where the author described him as an elf.
In the United States and Canada, children traditionally leave Santa a glass of milk and a plate of cookies; in Britain and Australia, he is sometimes given sherry and mince pies instead. In Sweden, children leave brownies. In Ireland it is popular to give him Guinness or milk, along with cookies or mince pies.
British, Australian, Irish, Canadian and American children also leave a carrot for Santa’s reindeer, and were traditionally told that if they are not good all year round, that they will receive a lump of coal in their stockings, although this practice is now considered archaic. Children following the Dutch custom for Sinterklaas will “put out their shoe” — that is, leave hay and a carrot for his horse in a shoe before going to bed—sometimes weeks before the Sinterklaas Avond. The next morning they will find the hay and carrot replaced by a gift; often, this is a marzipan figurine. Naughty children were once told that they would be left a roe (a bundle of sticks) instead of sweets, but this practice has been discontinued.
Other Christmas Eve Santa Claus rituals in the United States include reading Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas or other tale about Santa Claus, watching a Santa or Christmas-related animated program on television (such as the aforementioned Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town and similar specials, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, among many others), and the singing of Santa Claus songs such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Here Comes Santa Claus, and Up on the Housetop. Last minute rituals for children before going to bed include aligning stockings at the mantelpiece or other place where Santa cannot fail to see them, peeking up the chimney (in homes with a fireplace), glancing out a window and scanning the heavens for Santa’s sleigh, and (in homes without a fireplace), unlocking an exterior door so Santa can easily enter the house. Tags on gifts for children are sometimes signed by their parents, “From Santa Claus” before the gifts are laid beneath the tree.
There has long been some opposition to teaching children to believe in Santa Claus. Some Christians say the Santa tradition detracts from the religious origins and purpose of Christmas. Other critics feel that Santa Claus is an elaborate lie, and that it is unethical for parents to teach their children to believe in his existence. Still others oppose Santa Claus as a symbol of the commercialization of the Christmas holiday, or as an intrusion upon their own national traditions. Others point out that the Claus tradition is a good example of how children can learn that they may be deliberately misled by their elders; this will help teach them to be cautious about accepting any other superstition or unsubstantiated belief.
Despite Santa Claus’s claims of some of his mixed Christian roots, he has become a secular representation of Christmas. As such, a small number of primarily Protestant fundamentalist Christian churches dislike the secular focus on Santa Claus and the materialist focus that gift giving brings to the holiday. Such a condemnation of Christmas is not a twentieth century phenomenon, but originated among some Protestant groups of the 16th century and was prevalent among the Puritans of 17th century England and colonial America who banned the holiday as either pagan or Roman Catholic. Christmas was made legal with the Restoration but the Puritan opposition to the holiday persisted in New England for almost two centuries.
Following the Restoration of the monarchy and with Puritans out of power in England, the ban on Christmas was satirized in works such as Josiah King’s The Examination and Trial of Old Father Christmas; Together with his Clearing by the Jury (1686) [Nissenbaum, chap. 1].
Rev. Paul Nedergaard, a clergyman in Copenhagen, Denmark, attracted controversy in 1958 when he declared Santa to be a “pagan goblin” after Santa’s image was used on fund-raising materials for a Danish welfare organization Clar, 337. One prominent religious group that refuses to celebrate Santa Claus, or Christmas itself, for similar reasons is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A number of denominations of Christians have varying concerns about Santa Claus, which range from acceptance to denouncement.
Some Christians would prefer that the focus be given on the actual birth of Jesus, recognizing that Christmas stemmed from pagan festivals such as the Roman Saturnalia and Germanic Yule which were subsumed within ancient Christianity. An even smaller subset of nominally Reformed Christians actually prefer the secularized version of the holiday for the same reasons, citing that to relegate Christ’s birth to a day so very obviously inaccurate to its actual occurrence is, in fact, an abomination.
Some parents are uncomfortable about lying to their children about the existence of Santa. Some fundamentalist parents worry that their children might think that if they were deceived by their parents about Santa Claus, they might be deceiving them about God’s existence as well. While the viewpoints of fundamentalists do not represent the majority of Christians, their comments have drawn the attention of critics such as the fictional Landover Baptist Church, whose website satirizes and parodies the fundamentalist viewpoint.
In his book Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, writer Jeremy Seal describes how the commercialization of the Santa Claus legend began in the 1800s. “In the 1820s he began to acquire the recognizable trappings: reindeer, sleigh, bells,” said Seal in an interview. “They are simply the actual bearings in the world from which he emerged. At that time, sleighs were how you got about Manhattan.”
Writing in Mothering, writer Carol Jean-Swanson makes similar points, noting that the original figure of St. Nicholas gave only to those who were needy and that today Santa Claus seems to be more about conspicuous consumption:
“Our jolly old Saint Nicholas reflects our culture to a T, for he is fanciful, exuberant, bountiful, over-weight, and highly commercial. He also mirrors some of our highest ideals: childhood purity and innocence, selfless giving, unfaltering love, justice, and mercy. (What child has ever received a coal for Christmas?) The problem is that, in the process, he has become burdened with some of society’s greatest challenges: materialism, corporate greed, and domination by the media. Here, Santa carries more in his baggage than toys alone!”
In the Czech Republic, a group of advertising professionals started a website against Santa Claus, a relatively recent phenomenon in that country. “Czech Christmases are intimate and magical. All that Santa stuff seems to me like cheap show business,” said David König of the Creative Copywriters Club, pointing out that it is primarily an American and British tradition. “I’m not against Santa himself. I’m against Santa in my country only.” In the Czech tradition, presents are delivered by Ježíšek, which translates as Baby Jesus.
In the United Kingdom, Santa—or Father Christmas — was historically depicted wearing a green cloak. More recently, that has been changed to the more commonly known red suit. One school in the seaside town of Brighton banned the use of a red suit for erroneously believing it was only indicative of the Coca-Cola advertising campaign. School spokesman Sarah James said: “The red-suited Santa was created as a marketing tool by Coca-Cola, it is a symbol of commercialism.” In reality, the red-suited Santa was created by Thomas Nast. Woolley posits that it is perhaps “kinship with the adult world” that causes children not to be angry that they were lied to for so long. The criticism about this deception is not that it is a simple lie, but a complicated series of very large lies. The objections to the lie are that it is unethical for parents to lie to children without good cause, and that it discourages healthy skepticism in children. With no greater good at the heart of the lie, it is charged that it is more about the parents than it is about the children. Writer Austin Cline posed the question: “Is it not possible that kids would find at least as much pleasure in knowing that parents are responsible for Christmas, not a supernatural stranger?”
Others, however, see no harm in the belief in Santa Claus. Psychologist Tamar Murachver said in that it was a cultural, not parental, lie; thus, it does not undermine parental trust. The New Zealand Skeptics also see no harm in parents telling their children that Santa is real. Spokesperson Vicki Hyde said, “It would be a hard-hearted parent indeed who frowned upon the innocent joys of our children’s cultural heritage. We save our “bah humbugs” for the things that exploit the vulnerable.”
Dr. John Condry of Cornell University interviewed more than 500 children for a study of the issue and found that not a single child was angry at his or her parents for telling them Santa Claus was real. According to Dr. Condry, “The most common response to finding out the truth was that they felt older and more mature. They now knew something that the younger kids didn’t.”
Islamic opposition in Bosnia: Santa Claus has been banned by the director of pre-school education in predominantly Muslim Sarajevo on 21 December 2008 on the grounds that he plays no part in Bosniak tradition.
The controversial attack is the culmination of a long history of unsuccessful efforts by nationalists with Islamic leanings to ban him out the country. The struggle first emerged in the aftermath of the Bosnian war when the wartime president, Alija Izetbegović, attempted to declare Santa Claus a communist-era ‘fabrication’. Although at the time Izetbegović’s efforts were blocked after a public outcry, this time it was done by Arzija Mahmutović, director of the Children of Sarajevo group of public nurseries, apparently successfully.
I will close Part 2 of the “Twelve Days Of Christmas” series with a little list of how Santa Claus is known in various countries. Enjoy!
Europe and North America
Throughout Europe and North America, Santa Claus is generally known as such, but in some countries the gift-giver’s name, attributes, date of arrival, and even identity varies.
Albania: Babagjyshi i Krishtlindjeve (“Grandfather Christmas”);Babadimri (“Grandfather Winter”)
Austria: Christkind (“Christ child”)
Armenia: Ձմեռ Պապիկ (Dzmer Papik “Grandfather Winter”)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Djeda Mraz (Ded Moroz, “Grandfather Frost”)
Bulgaria: Дядо Коледа (“Grandfather Christmas”)
Canada: Santa Claus; Père Noël (“Father Christmas”)
Croatia: Djed Mraz (“Grandfather Frost”) or Djed Božičnjak (“Grandfather Christmas”)
Czech Republic: Svatý Mikuláš (“Saint Nicholas”) – he brings gifts in evening of 5 December, day before his holiday. He often gives sweets and fruits (for nice kids) and potatoes and coal (for naughty kids);
Ježíšek ( “child Jesus”) – brings gifts in evening of 24th December (which differs from Santa Claus’s gifting during night between 24th and 25th December) – kids are unpacking gifts in evening already.
Faroe Islands: Jólamaðurin
France: Père Noël (“Father Christmas,” also a common figure in other French-speaking areas)
Germany: Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man”); Christkind in southern Germany
Greece, Cyprus: Άγιος Βασίλης (“Saint Basil”)
Hungary: Mikulás (“Nicholas”); Télapó (“Old Man Winter”); Jézuska or Kis Jézus (“child Jesus”)
Iceland: Jólasveinn (“Yule Man”). See also the 13 Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir).
Republic of Ireland: Santa Claus, Santy or Daidí na Nollag (Father Christmas)
Italy: Babbo Natale (“Father Christmas”); La Befana (similar to Santa Claus; she rides a broomstick rather than a sleigh, but is not considered a witch); Santa Lucia (“Saint Lucy,” a blind old woman who on December 13 brings gifts to children in some regions, riding a donkey); Gesù bambino (“Child Jesus”)
Latvia: Ziemassvētku vecītis (“Christmas pop”)
Lithuania: Senis Šaltis (“Old Man Frost”) or Kalėdų Senelis (“Christmas Grandfather”)
Netherlands & Flanders: Kerstman (“Christmas Man”)
Macedonia: Дедо Мраз / Dedo Mraz
Poland: Święty Mikołaj / Mikołaj (“Saint Nicholas”); Gwiazdor in some regions
Portugal: Pai Natal
Romania,Moldova: Moş Crăciun (“Father Christmas”); Moş Niculae (“Father Nicholas”)
Russia: Дед Мороз (Ded Moroz, “Grandfather Frost”)
Serbia: Дедa Мрaз / Deda Mraz (Ded Moroz, “Grandfather Frost”)
Spain: Reyes Magos (Biblical Magi) is the autochthonous tradition, and representations of the Magi are done in the streets the 6th of January. Due to external influence, Santa Claus (Papá Noel) is becoming more common. Many families have adopted both traditions.
Catalonia: Apart from the Reis Mags (Biblical Magi) tradition, in Catalonia there is another local tradition, the Tió de Nadal. Usually this character gives small gifts, the more important gifts being given by the Reis Mags. As in the rest of Spain, the imported Pare Noel (Santa Claus) tradition is becoming more common.
Switzerland: Christkind / Babbo Natale / Père Noël
Turkey: Noel Baba (“Father Christmas”) Although Turks are mainly Islamic, many homes carry the tradition of “Noel Baba” and a Christmas (or New Year) tree.
Turkmenistan: Aýaz baba (“Father Christmas”)
Ukraine: Svyatyy Mykolay; Дід Мороз / Did Moroz.
United Kingdom: Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Santa, Siôn Corn (“Chimney John” in Welsh)
United States: Santa Claus; Kris Kringle; Saint Nicholas or Saint Nick
Santa Claus in Latin America is generally referred to as Papá Noel, but there are variations from country to country.
Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Perú, Uruguay and Venezuela: Papá Noel (“Father Christmas”), Niño Jesús (Baby Jesus)
Brazil: Papai Noel (Father Christmas); Os Três Reis Magos (“The Three Mage Kings”)
Chile: Viejito Pascuero (Christmas old man)
Mexico: Santo Clós (Santa Claus); Niño Dios (lit. “child God” i.e. child Jesus); Los Reyes Magos (“The Wise Men”)
People around Asia, particularly countries that have adopted Western cultures, also celebrate Christmas and the gift-giver traditions passed down to them from the West. Some countries that observe and celebrate Christmas (especially as a public holiday) include Hong Kong, Philippines, East Timor, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and the Christian communities within Central Asia and the Middle East.
Asia: Santa Claus
China: 聖誕老人 (pinyin: shèngdànlǎorén lit. Christmas old man)
Hong Kong: 聖誕老人 (jyutping: sing3 daan3 lou5 jan4 lit. Christmas old man) Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas
India Dada (“Christmas old man”), Thatha(“Christmas old man” in telugu)
Japan: サンタさん、サンタクロース (romaji: santa-san (lit. Mr. Santa) santa kurōsu)
Korea: 산타 클로스 (“santa kullosu”)
Vietnam: Ông già Noel (“The Christmas old man”)
Africa and the Middle East
Christians in Africa and Middle East who celebrate Christmas generally ascribe to the gift-giver traditions passed down to them by Europeans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Descendants of colonizers still residing in these regions likewise continue the practices of their ancestors.
South Africa: Sinterklaas; Father Christmas; Santa Claus; Vader Kersfees
Lebanon: Papa Noel (Arabic: بابا نويل baba noel)
Egypt: Papa Noel (Arabic: بابا نويل baba noel)
Australia Father Christmas, Santa Claus
New Zealand Father Christmas, Santa Claus