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The different names of Santa Claus all around the world

Olivia Heath
·3-min read
Photo credit: Michael Greenwood - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Greenwood - Getty Images

From House Beautiful

Internationally recognised, Santa Claus brings joy and excitement into homes all over the world during the Christmas period – but he isn't known as Santa Clause to everyone.

The concept of Santa Claus originated from Saint Nicholas, a patron saint well known for giving generous gifts to the poor. The pronunciation of Saint Nicholas in Dutch is Sinterklaas, which is where the Santa Claus name originated from. Saint Nicholas was bishop of the small Roman town of Myra in the 4thCentury in what is now Turkey.

Internationally, there are many variations for the festive figure, as the name has been interpreted and changed in many ways, unique to each country.

Here, Sergio Afonso, linguistics expert at Absolute Translations, talks us through the different names for Santa Claus around the world.

1) German

Germany is home to the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world. German children call Santa Claus ‘Weihnachtsmann’ which translates to Christmas man. The Weihnachtsmann is a recent Christmas tradition which has little if any religious or folkloric background.

2) Italian

Italy is famous for their big Christmas spread for the whole family to enjoy. Italian children call Santa Claus ‘Babbo Natale’. He is becoming more popular in Italy for gift giving on Christmas Day but La Befana, the old woman who delivers gifts on Epiphany on 6th January, is still more common.

3) Portuguese

Children in Portugal call Santa Claus ‘Pai Natal’. He is believed to bring presents on Christmas Eve either under the tree or in shoes by the fireplace. Although, some families do believe that the presents were brought by baby Jesus and not Pai Natal.

4) French

Children in France call Santa Claus ‘Pere Noël’ which translates to Father Christmas. In France, Christmas Eve is the main event, the big feast is eaten, and presents are opened. The idea of a grown man drinking milk and eating cookies is laughable to French adults, so the children leave a glass of wine or Calvados.

Photo credit: Tom Merton - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tom Merton - Getty Images

5) Japanese

In Japan they call him ‘Santa-San’, which is Mr Santa. In Japan Christmas is known as a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration.

6) Finnish

Finland are lucky enough to enjoy a white Christmas each year. Finnish children call Santa Claus ‘Joulupukki’. They believe Joulupukki is from Korvatunturi, a fell in Lapland in which they believe his secret workshop is located.

7) Turkish

Santa Claus is called ‘Noel Baba’ to Turkish children, which translates into Father Christmas. Santa Claus is known to have Turkish roots; he can be traced back to 280A.D in Patara near Myra. In Turkey, Noel Baba is expected to leave his gifts under a pine tree called New Year tree for New Year’s Eve.

8) Russian

Russian Santa Claus is named ‘Ded Moroz’ which means Grandfather Frost. Whilst Santa wears red, Ded Moroz typically appears in a long red, icy blue, silver or gold lined coat trimmed with white fur. He wears a rounded Russian cap generously trimmed with fur and has traditional felt boots called valenki.

Photo credit: Ljupco - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ljupco - Getty Images

9) Greek

In Greece, Santa Claus is known as ‘Ayios Vassileios’. Like Turkey, Agios Vasilios delvers gifts on New Year’s Eve. Everyone visits the city centre and makes a lot of noise to bring him into the cities. Each year on New Year’s Day, Orthodox Christians remember Agios Vassileios in church.

10) Bulgaria

Bulgarian children call Santa Claus ‘Dyado Koleda’ which means Grandfather Christmas. The belief of Dyado Koleda came from Russia since Bulgaria did not have much contact with non-socialistic countries, the only difference is his red coat is long to his ankles.

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