Santas Around the World

December 2, 2021

Santa Claus Traditions Around The World

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The cultural traditions that are passed down from generation to generation are what make this time of year so special to me. Growing up, Santa Claus made a significant impact during Christmas that I have fond memories of. In America, we think of a man wearing a red jacket with elves and reindeers in the North Pole. However, there are countless customs around the world that make the holiday season special to different cultures. I always enjoy discovering the unique ways people celebrate.

Let's take a look at the Christmas traditions around the globe and visit some of the various versions of Santa Claus.

France – Père Noël or Papa Noël

Père Noël is French for Father Christmas. In France, he wears a long red cloak with a hood trimmed in white fur. Well-behaved children receive toys and gifts in the evening after Mass on Christmas Eve. Instead of hanging stockings, children leave their shoes and slippers by the fireplace. If they have been good, Père Noël will leave treats in their shoes or slippers. The tradition says that Père Noël travels with someone named Père Fouettard, or "the whipping father." He spanks any children who did not behave well throughout the year. Children may leave carrots and treats for Pere Noel’s flying donkey, Gui.

Italy – Babbo Natale and La Befana

In Italy, Santa Claus is called Babbo Natale, which means Father Christmas. In the Italian tradition, Babbo Natale visits each family during the night before Christmas, bringing gifts to kids while they are sleeping. Children leave milk and cookies for him in the kitchen before going to sleep. Babbo Natale is the male figure of Christmas along with a female figure named “La Befana." She is a friendly old lady with powers who is dressed poorly. La Befana delivers toys and stockings full of sweets to well-behaved children and coal to badly behaved kids. Families leave out sausage and wine instead of cookies and milk for her to enjoy on her travels.

Spain – Los Reyes Magos

In Spain, Santa Claus is referred to as Papa Noel. However, he is not the one who usually delivers gifts to children on Christmas. Instead, well-behaved children receive a visit from three figures known as Los Reyes Mago. Leading up to the arrival of the kings, special events and large festivals are held to welcome them. Children have a chance to give their letters and wish lists to their favorite mago – Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar.

The Netherlands – Sinterklaas

Santa Claus is called Sinterklaas in the Netherlands. He wears a tall, red bishop’s hat and a jeweled stuff (linked to Illusion Magic). Instead of coming into town on a sleigh, he rides a white horse. Children are told that a record is kept of everything they’ve done throughout the year. He knocks on every family’s door and brings gifts to well-behaved children. However, his companion, Grumpus, is said to kidnap the naughty children and take them to Spain for a year to teach them how to behave.

Iceland – Yule Lads

In Iceland, they don’t have a single figure like Santa Claus on Christmas. Instead, children are visited by 13 mischievous Icelandic elves called The Yule Lads. Children place a shoe by their bedroom window every night for the 13 days leading up to Christmas. Every night, one lad visits, leaving small gifts and treats. If a child misbehaved, they will receive rotting potatoes in their shoes. It is told that Grýla, the mother of the 13 Yule Lads, will capture children who misbehaved throughout the year.

Heritage and storytelling make up different cultures around the globe. This is a huge part of our brand ethos here at Wisteria. Diversity and traditions are what make the world such a fascinating place to live.