What’s the French Santa’s name? Is the most important Christmas ‘ingredient’ looks the same worldwide? We continue to explore exciting and sometimes truly weird festive traditions in this Part II. In Part I, we’ve looked at some history behind Christmas and learnt a lot of fascinating Christmas facts. These would be fun to bring up in conversation when the family is gathered around a festive table. Here are some more.
The bearded jolly man showering children with gifts looks quite different in countries around the worlds. Americans know Santa as a white-bearded man in a red suite and a hat carrying a sack filled with gifts. British Father Frost resembles its American version – Santa – today and they are often considered to be the same person, yet originally, he was portrayed wearing suits of different colors, including green and brown.
The French gift-bringer Père Noël wears a red clock with a hood that he often wears up, which makes him resemble Santa Claus much. His working hours are different, though: children are excited to unwrap their presents after evening Mass on Christmas Eve. And it is shoes and slippers rather than stockings that are left for Père Noël to fill with treats.
Ded Moroz (Father Frost) delivers presents to the Russian and Ukrainian children with his companion, Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden), on New Year’s Eve. He’s a powerful pagan god who became less severe over the course of time. Wearing a blue (sometimes red) suit and always with his pikestaff, he lefts gifts for children who didn’t misbehave during the year under fir trees.
Jultomten in Sweden originated as a mythical creature, a ‘tomten’ - ‘house gnome’ - protecting children, occasionally helping with chores, yet able to play tricks if offended. Approximately in the 1840s, a white-bearded ‘Christmas tomten’ in a red cap started coming straight through the front door to bring presents. Today he’s often believed to be working with Santa.
In Australia, it’s not out of the ordinary to see Santa Claus arriving on a surfboat at beaches as Christmas is hot there.
The Dutch version, Sinterklaas, wears a tall red bishop’s hat and comes riding a white worse. He strongly resembles Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children, which is the primary source of modern Santa icon. In his big red book, he has a record of how every child behaved during the year.
Having eyes on the back of his head, Japanease Hotei-osho leaves presents for kids and is considered to be watching all the naughty children around the globe.
We all love Christmas yet celebrate it in quite distinct ways reflecting our culture and history. But the magic and excitement of the season are universal. Time to get into the holiday spirit, sign Christmas greeting cards, and wait for a miracle!
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