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The 6 Faces Of Santa - How The World Sees Santa Claus

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December 14, 2017 / International / By
Adrian Cruce

Santa Claus is known by many different names around the world, with numerous legends and traditions surrounding him. The common trait is that he brings toys for the good girls and boys. Most cultures have some sort of Santa Claus persona that is celebrated around Christmas time.

Below we talk about those Santa Clauses that are the most popular, together with the associated traditions.

Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas is a Saint Nicholas adaptation and is mainly found in the Netherlands, with other European countries like Luxembourg and Belgium also having minor celebrations. This Santa Claus has unique traditions, like mischievious helpers (Zwarte Piet, meaning Black Pete) and instead of a sleigh he rides a horse while dressed as a bishop. Sinterklaas comes ceremoniously from a Spain based summer residence (according to legend) in the middle of November. On December 5 Netherlands celebrates St. Nicholas Day, which we talk about next. However, the one main trait that Sinterklaas has is a much more serious disposition that is quite opposed to what we normally see in the joyful Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas

Out of all Santa Claus origin stories, Saint Nicholas’ is the one that is the most common around the world. There is quite a big confusion surrounding it since according to legend, he is Santa while in traditional celebrations, Saint Nicholas is celebrated on a different day. Based on culture, Saint Nicholas has traits that are more modern or more similar to Sinterklass.

Most western countries celebrate Saint Nicholas on December 6th. Feasting and gift-giving traditions vary but the most common one is having children leave shoes on the eve of the holiday, hoping that St. Nicholas will come by and leave gifts. In the past the gifts were coins but in modern times candy is preferred. Worship services or Mass is attended by families at this time.

Christkindl

Christkindl is seen as a gift bringer in various countries in the Christian worshiping parts of Latin America and Europe. He is practically known as “Christ Child” and became really popular as Catholic Christmas celebrations were being banned by the Protestant Reformation. Celebration date ended up being moved from the traditional December 6 (Saint Nicholas) to December 24. Kris Kringle, which is celebrated in America, has his origins in Christkindl. This face of Santa Claus is normally depicted as an angel or a child, bringing presents as children sleep, never being seen.

Father Christmas

Most people that travel to the UK are surprised to see that there is no mention of Santa Claus. Instead, the British celebrate Father Christmas. What many do not know is that there are mentions of Father Christmas ever since the fifteenth century, sometimes named Captain Christmas or Sir Christmas. No matter the name, merry-making and celebrating were encouraged. At one point in time Father Christmas was depicted as an old, caring gentleman, with a wreath around the head. This is when the name Old Christmas was popular. Ever since the 1800s Father Christmas was seen in plays and celebrations but there was no connection with gift-giving or children. The modern association appeared simply because of how the rest of the world started to see Santa Claus.

Ded Moroz

Ded Moroz’s story is similar to that of Father Christmas but appeared in Slavic countries, way before Christian traditions. Ded Moroz started to gain popularity in the middle of the nineteenth century and during Soviet occupation times. It was presented as an alternate for the western attached image of Santa Claus. The different names of Ded Moroz include Father Frost, a Winter Wizard persona. This is why he is similar to Old Man Winter and Jack Frost but there are clear similarities with Santa as Ded Moroz brings treats and toys to children. The big difference is that this happens on New Years Day as opposed to December 25th.

Santa Claus

This is the name most of the world knows for the jolly gift bringer. Modern times basically created him and he became an amalgamation of the names and traditions seen for celebrating winter holidays around the world. New traditions and tales were added and gave Santa the unique character it has today, together with written articles and books.

Santa Claus is nowadays a symbol of being good and giving to others. While there are different Santa Claus interpretations in various countries and the origin legend is not the same, people love Santa Claus and what he represents: goodness.


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