Did you know Santa Clause looks and acts differently in every country?
The jolly, rosy-cheeked, bearded man in a red suit shown in American culture and in Coca-Cola marketing during the winter is not the way Santa is seen in other countries!
France’s tradition might most closely resemble the American Santa Clause. Père Noël looks very similar to Santa but instead of a suit, he wears a long red cloak. Children are told to leave shoes by the fireplace on the night before Christmas so they can get filled with treats. Père Noël travels with Père Fouettard, “the whipping father”, who will spank the naughty children of France.
In Catalonia Spain, a wooden log with a painted face is the bringer of presents during the holidays! Children “feed” Tió de Nadal small treats like dried fruits and nuts while keeping him wrapped in a blanket. On Christmas Eve, Tió de Nadal is sung to while being whacked by stick-wielding children. On Christmas, Tió de Nadal will defecate a pile of treats gifts!
In Italy, La Befana is a kind-hearted female witch who flies on her broomstick to give presents and treats to the good children, and coal to the bad. Her legend ties into the story of the three wise men, whom she let stay in her home during their journey to see baby Jesus.
Christkind is usually depicted as a female angel, with curly blonde hair, wearing a crown in regions such as Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. This tradition pulls from the Protestant tradition that Jesus himself leaves Christmas presents. Often, during a Chistkinlmarkt, a child is chosen to play the coveted role as Christkind.
In Finland, Joulupukki the Yule goat is associated with Odim, the Norse god. It is said Joulupukki used to go from house to house asking for gifts and leftover food from the Yuletide celebrations but now is known for giving presents to well-behaved children. Yule goat decorations are often made from straw and strung with lights and ribbon.
Every winter tradition brings joy to those who celebrate it and it is truly amazing just how many variations there are worldwide.