- The jolly, bearded Santa Claus that Americans know and love is not the only version of a Santa-like mythical being.
- In Spain, children receive gifts from the three Reyes Magos (three Wise Men).
- In Germany, children are fearful of Krampus: the demonic being that whips and kidnaps children who have misbehaved.
But the Santa you see in American movies and on Coca-Cola bottles is only one version of a mythical being who either rewards or punishes children and gives out gifts around Yuletide.
From Sinterklaas in The Netherlands who rides a horse to the female Christkind in Austria and Germany, here’s how Santa Claus is portrayed in 13 countries around the world.
United Kingdom — Father Christmas
Certain traditions are just a natural part of the British Christmas: Yorkshire pudding and turkey on the Christmas table, kids pulling Christmas crackers, and Father Christmas wearing green.
Although you will see the more popular, red-suited version of Santa on Christmas in the UK, the traditional British Father Christmas wears a hooded green cloak, a wreath of holly or ivy, and carries a staff. His appearance — like many Christmas traditions — is rooted in pagan mythology.
In pop culture, he resembles the Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
France — Père Noël or Papa Noël
While his name may just be French for Father Christmas, Père Noël has his own Christmas traditions.
Père Noël also traditionally travels with a not-so friendly companion called Père Fouettard, or “the whipping father,” who spanks any children who have not behaved well throughout the year.
Russia and Ukraine — Ded Moroz and Snegurochka (Father Frost and Snow Maiden)
Ded Moroz (translated as Father Frost) is a figure of Slavic mythology, often depicted as a wizard or demon. Traditionally, he would punish naughty children by kidnapping them, but this darker part of Ded Moroz’s personality has softened over the years.
Now, on New Year’s Eve, he travels all over the Slavic region, mainly in Russia and Ukraine, carrying gifts for children with his cheerful companion, Snegurochka the Snow Maiden.