Different Santas From Around the World

Although many people in North America are most familiar with a red-and-white-suited Santa with a winter beard and long hair, there are Santas all around the world.

Although many people in North America associate Santa with a red-and-white-suited Santa with a winter beard and long hair, Santas may be seen all around the world. They all have one thing in common: they give away gifts throughout winter. Everything else they don’t have! Here’s a quick rundown of the top five that are most unlike the classic Santa Claus.

Different Santas From Around the World
Different Santas From Around the World ( Image Credit: Flickr )

La Befana (Italy)

On January 5th, Epiphany Eve, La Befana travels around Italy offering gifts and candy to children. Her broomstick serves as her mode of transportation. Before the birth of Jesus, she was visited by the three magi (or wisemen), according to mythology. While tracing the star, they spent the night in her house. She declined their invitation to accompany them. Later, she changed her mind. La Befana, like Santa, has pre-Christian beginnings, and different theories exist as to how she came to be. She is shown in art as a soot-covered hag astride her broomstick, with a sack of toys slung over her back. Families will leave a glass of wine and some local treats for her. Since the eighth century, La Befana has been a part of Italian mythology.

Amu Nowruz (Iran)

Amu Nowruz, also known as Baba Nowruz, is associated with the Persian new year festival Nowruz. Amu Nowruz is the distribution of presents to youngsters on the eve of the new year. Unlike Santa Claus, he walks the streets with his companion, Haji Firuz, rather than visiting individual homes. Haji, who is coated in soot and dressed in brilliant crimson, plays the tambourine. Both he and Amu Nowruz wear felt hats. Amu Nowruz is generally shown as an elderly man with silver or white hair, a blue cloak, and a walking staff. Unlike the previous examples, Amu Nowruz is normally celebrated in March, as that is when the spring equinox (and Persian New Year) occurs the most frequently.

Christkind (Central Europe: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil— mostly in areas with large Lutheran populations)

Christkind or Christkindl translates to “Christ child” in German. Martin Luther invented the notion of Christkind when he started his reformation in an attempt to move gift-giving away from Catholic saint-celebration and adoration. Luther moved the Christkind’s gift-giving to Christmas Eve since St. Nicholas Day was celebrated on December 6th. Holy Christ had arrived with their presents, the children were informed. The image of Christkind changed throughout time into that of an angelic being, giving birth to the present practice of having a female impersonate Christkind in towns and villages where the rite is still practiced. She has long, wavy blonde hair that she usually wears with a crown.

Los Reyes Magos (Spain and some other Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico)

On January 6th, or El Dia de Reyes in Spain, Los Reyes Magos, or the three wisemen, give presents to children throughout Spain. Before January 6th, children submit letters to their chosen Mago—Mechor, Gaspar, or Baltasar—requesting the gifts they want. On the 5th, they leave their shoes out, as well as sweets and refreshments for the magi and hay for the camels. In the morning, their shoes are filled with presents, and the sweets and hay are consumed.

READ MORE: Top 10 Smallest Countries in Europe

Ded Moroz and Snegurochka (Slavic countries in Eastern Europe and Russia) (Father Frost and Snow Maiden)

Ded Moroz and Snegurochka are similar to Santa Claus in that they travel and provide gifts to children who are courteous and kind. He travels from November until New Year’s Eve, but it’s on New Year’s Eve when he’s famous for leaving gifts. In appearance, Ded Moroz resembles Santa Claus and Père Noel. He has a long red coat and a white beard. His crimson cap is adorned with pearls and his clothing is embroidered with stars and crosses. His staff is either crystal or silver in color. Ded Moroz, on the other hand, has a darker side, as evidenced by his name’s translation—Father Frost. Father Frost was a pre-Christian winter magician notorious for both chaining water with “iron” frosts and snatching children and releasing them only when their parents brought him presents in exchange.

As may be seen, several gift-bearing characters visit their homelands at the time of the seasonal transition. Most include features that relate to the Christmas season, but it is apparent that pre-Christian themes continue to have a great effect.

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