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What Other Countries Call Santa Claus

FUN FACTS December 5, 2016 By Vincent

Ubiquitous with the Christmas season, Santa Claus is a jolly fat man dressed in red who hands who delivers gifts to children across the globe with the tradition deriving from the Christian Saint Nicholas who would throw gold into people's chimneys and the name 'Sant Claus' comes from Dutch immigrants to America who called Saint Nicholaus 'Sant Nicolaas' and this evolved over time.

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Although the definitive image of Santa seems fairly well defined across the world, his name alters from place to place. Depending on tradition or other influences, Santa's name changes around the world so here we look at some of his other names.


1. Great Britain - Father Christmas

Although American influence through various forms of media means that Santa Claus is a recognized term for the man in red on the other side of the pond, their own name for him is Father Christmas, a term that seems to recognize his position as the definitive authority on all things Christmassy.

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This may come about from his elderly looks and long white beard but some speculate it may also incorporate older pagan traditions in the country like the characters of father time from the nearby New Year's celebrations. Traditionally he wore green before the color was changed to red and this is also have thought to have come from the pagan idea of the green man, father of the forest.


2. Norway - Christmas Gnome

You would think that being that much closer to where Santa lives, the Norwegians would know Santa's real name but they refer to him as the Christmas Gnome, which seems a bit harsh but he certainly does have gnome-like features so we guess it makes sense what with him living with elves and having a long white beard and a pointy hat.

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This also goes some way to explaining his magical powers as Norwegians consider gnomes to be magical.


3. Finland - The Christmas Goat

In a Pagan tradition, Finnish people used to be visited by the Yule Goat, a magical goat that would visit in the winter and perform for leftover scraps of food. But as the awareness of Christianity and the concept of Christmas spread throughout the country, this tradition soon became conflagrated with that of Santa Claus coming to visit them.

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So, whilst he looks like a man and acts like a man (albeit a magical one) the Finns call him the Christmas Goat.Unlike the American version of Santa, he doesn't live in the North Pole but rather the Korvatunturi mountains of Finland.


4. Russia - Old Man Frost

The Russian name for Santa Claus seems to come from European folk tales that tell of old man frost, a story that varies from place to place but widely tells of a man who sprinkles frost and ice across the land when winter comes (sometimes known as jack frost).

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As such, Russians have combined the two into one as Santa brings both presents and a cold snap.


5. Czech Republic - Baby Jesus

Not the same person as Santa Claus, Czech children are often visited by the religious figure of Baby Jesus who delivers them presents under a Christmas tree for being good throughout the year and this tradition has been around for over 400 years. Although there is a Czech version of Saint Nicholas who  is usually dressed in the white robes of a bishop and wears a majestic white beard, it is baby Jesus who delivers gifts.

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In Czech tradition, bad children can also be visited by a devil who threatens to take them to hell if they have been bad. A bit harsh maybe.


6. Iceland - Christmas Lads

The Christmas Lads or Yule Lads long pre-date Santa Claus in the country with their numbers varying over time and from place to place with them ranging from being mere pranksters who would play bad tricks on children who had been naughty to full-on homicidal monsters whilst others brought gifts and rewards to the good children.

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Nowadays they are very much a representation of Santa in look and act but there is a group of them over just a singular one.


7. Catalonia - Christmas Log

This one is perhaps the strangest to those unfamiliar with the tradition but in the autonomous region of Catalonia that covers parts of France and Spain, they have Tio de Nadal, a Christmas log with a face that is fed tidbits throughout the run up to Christmas day in the hope that he will then poop out presents.

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To make Tio defecate gifts, he is beaten with sticks whilst singing traditional songs.


8. Poland - Starman

Although in many parts of Poland Santa Claus is the primary gift giver, in Eastern and Northern Poland traditions can vary and many find themselves with gifts from a Starman who would turn up to Children's houses covered in soot or a mask to disguise his face and would test children on their knowledge of Catholic prayers and carols.

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If the children could recite satisfactory information they would receive a gift, if they failed a birch rod would be given to their parents to beat them.


9. Ukraine - Saint Nicholas

In a very traditional manner, Ukrainian are still visited by an embodiment of Saint Nicholas meaning that he is a far more religious character than in other countries where Santa Claus has almost become a separate entity from the Christian part of the festival. Although he remains the religious figure many of his traditions are the same as those seen with other cultures and Santa.

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For example, hay and a carrot may be left out for his horse (as opposed to reindeer) and children receive either gifts under their pillow if they've been good or coal or birch if they've been bad.


10. Latvia - Christmas Old Man

In a very literal interpretation of his name, Latvians just call Santa Christmas Old Man because he is an old man that comes at Christmas. This seems like a fairly logical name and for all intents and purposes, he is the same as the Santa Claus of other cultures but he sometimes has blue robes. Latvia claims to be the home of the very first Christmas tree.

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Sometimes, Latvian children will have to recite a poem next to the Christmas tree in order to receive their gifts.


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