Santa Claus is a man with many identities
Santa Claus has many names:
- Juulimaaq (Greenland)
- Julemanden (Denmark)
- Santa Claus (USA)
- Father Christmas (England)
- Jultomten (Sweden)
- Julenissen (Norway)
- Weihnachtsmann (Germany)
- Sankt Nicolaus (The Netherlands and Belgium)
- Babbo Natale (Italy)
Let’s take a look at some of the christmas traditions around the world.
Unlucky neighbor turned Nikolaus into Santa Claus in Turkey
The legend about Santa Claus comes from generous Sankt Nikolaus, a Byzantine bishop in Myra in today’s Turkey. Nikolaus had a very unlucky neighbor. Everything went wrong for him. Things went so wrong, that he had to consider selling his daughters as slaves.
In order to avoid the poor girls ending up as prostitutes, Nikolaus sneaked over to the neighbor’s house and secretly threw bags of gold over to the man and his girls. Now, they could afford to have the girls getting married with the gold as a dowry.
Based on this story and others that describe his generosity and healing powers, Sankt Nikolaus got “sainted” and became known as the protector of children and seamen.
Behave! If you want Santa Claus to visit you in Germany
During 15th century, the Germans adapted Sankt Nikolaus together with Christkind. Sankt Nikolaus and Christkind pretty much had the same role. Sankt Nikolaus gave away sweets and gifts and got company from Knecht Ruprecht. Naughty children got to know Knecht Ruprecht’s birch, while good ones got praised by Sankt Nikolaus. People knew very well who they wanted to get visited by.
Put your wooden shoes by the chimney for Santa Claus on December 5th, if you live in the Netherlands
Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Sankt Nikolaus, comes all the way sailing from Spain to The Netherlands in the night between the 5th and 6th December. Children put their wooden shoes next to the chimney and hope to get them filled by Sinterklaas.
Sankt Nikolaus has like Christkind in Germany company of Zwarte Piet. But, fortunately, he isn’t quite as evil as Knecht Ruprecht in Germany.
Coca Cola and the Americans gave Santa Claus his red clothes
Santa Claus, which is an anglification of Sankt Nikolaus, is the Americans’ version. through illustrations and stories, they created the current picture of Santa Claus in his fine, red clothes.
Santa Claus also had fine red clothes before 1931, but it was actually an ad for Coca Cola that year, that has manifested the idea of Santa Claus’ look. We are grateful about it.
It was also an American, who wrote, misleadingly, that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. It should be basic knowledge, that Santa Claus lives in Greenland. The Americans are very good at many things, but geography has never been their biggest strength.
Merry Christmas to Finland – even if Santa Claus doesn’t live with you
In some mysterious way, some people got the perception of Santa Claus coming from Finland. We, who know for certain that Santa Claus lives in Greenland, do obviously disagree.
The Finnish Santa Claus is called Joulupukki, which means ”Christmas goat”. In short, the story about the Finnish Santa Claus / Christmas Goat comes from a whole other Finnish tradition. We’ll leave that one for another time.
Despite the Finnish name of Santa Claus comes from narrations about a Christmas Goat, the current Santa Claus looks like the British ”Father Christmas” and the American ”Santa Claus”. The Finnish version was, in the old days, wearing blue, green, purple and grey clothes, sometimes even black.
You probably realize, that there are many legends. You can obviously not trust everything you read. But one thing is for sure: Santa Claus exisits.
Merry Christmas to everyone!