Santa is one of the great symbols in the United Stated for Christmas. Not all countries have the same Santa. Since Christianity in days of old was trying to bring more people into the faith, the church and newly converted people adapted local customs to make the birth of Christ easier for people to understand.
Welcome to the 6 December 2008 edition of the International Marketing Review.
A Brief History Of Santa Claus Saint Nicholas is the common name for Nicholas of Myra, a Lycian saint and Bishop of Myra in Lycia of Anatolia. Because of the miracles attributed him, he is also known as Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and is now commonly identified with Santa Claus.
Sinterklaas is a traditional holiday figure in the Netherlands and Belgium, celebrated every year on 5 December, Saint Nicholas’ eve, or on the morning of December 6. Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. Santa, the red-suited man with a beard and a big belly, first appeared in a Coca-Cola advertisement in 1931. Before that, Santa was more like an elf. In 1885, Thomas Nast sketched two children looking at a map of the world and tracing Santa’s journey from the North Pole to the United States. The following year, the American writer, George P. Webster, took up this idea, explaining that Santa’s toy factory and “his house, during the long summer months, was hidden in the ice and snow of the North Pole.”
Finland Finnish people believe that Father Christmas lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi, or Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland.
England Father Christmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival, normally dressed in green, a sign of the returning spring. He was known as ‘Sir Christmas’, ‘Old Father Christmas’ or Old Winter’. In this earliest form, Father Christmas was not the bringer of gifts for small children, nor did he come down the chimney. He simply wandered around from home to home, knocking on doors and feasting with families before moving on to the next house. Children write letters to Father Christmas about the presents they want to receive. Instead of sending the letter, the kids burn the the letters because they believe that Father Christmas would be able to determine their wishes through the smoke.
Germany Martin Luther introduced das Christkindl (an angel-like Christ Child) to bring Christmas gifts and reduce the importance of Sankt Nikolaus (Protestants don’t have saints). Later this Christkindl figure would evolve into der Weihnachtsmann in Protestant regions and would eventually cross the Atlantic to mutate into the English term “Kris Kringle.”
Iceland The Yule Lads, or Yulemen, (Icelandic: jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar) are figures from Icelandic folklore who in modern times have become the Icelandic verion of Santa Claus. Their number has varied throughout the ages, but currently there are considered to be thirteen. Two examples of the 13 are: Gluggagægir, the Window-Peeper. He is a voyeur who looks through windows in search of things to steal. He starts visitning on 21 December and leaves on 3 January. Stúfur, Stubby. He is abnormally short and steals pans to eat the crust left on them. He starts visitning on 14 December and leaves on 27 December.
Scandinavia In much of the Scandinavian countries the Christmas Eve gift giver is the Jultomten or Christmas Gnome. Originally a goblin who brought good or bad luck to farmers; he became popular as the gift giver in the 19th century.
Russia Babushka is a traditional Russian Christmas figure who gies gifts to children. Her name means grandmother and the legend is told that she decided to not go with the wise men to see Jesus because of the cold weather. Later she regretted not going and set off to try and catch up, filling her basket with presents. She never found Jesus, and that is why she visits each house, leaving toys for good children. Here is an interesting article on Santa in Russia today: Santa Claus is an ‘illegal immigrant’ declares top Kremlin official in Christmas ‘Cold War’
Turkey In Turkey there is Noel Baba who is related with New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas since Turks do not celebrate Christmas. In today’s predominantly Muslim Turkey, commercial interests have promoted Noel Baba to encourage gift giving at New Year’s. Noel Baba is sometimes seen in shopping areas, on the streets, or in schools similar to Santa in Christian countries.
Holland A legend existed that St. Nicholas put the Devil in chains and made him his slave and each St. Nicholas Day the Devil was working under orders from Saint Nicholas. The good Saint would direct “Black Peter” to drop gifts and candy down the chimneys into the children’s shoes which were always there on St. Nicholas Eve. Eventually, the practice was carried over to Christmas which was actually a few weeks later.
Portugal In Portugal, Pai Natal delivers presents and it is the baby Jesus who helps Pai Natal with the presents.
Italy La Befana (Old Witch) is flying on her broomstick to give candies to kids in Italy. This is done on the night before Epiphany.
Austria Heiliger Nikolaus give rewards to good children in Austria on 6 December. While Christkindl brings gifts on 24 December.
Belgium In Belgium Pere Noel visits the children twice. First is every 4 December so he’ll find out who have been good and bad among the children. Then good children would receive toys and candies while the bad ones will find twigs on their stockings on 6 December.
Hungary Tel-apo or Mikulas has similar practice as in Belgium, delivering gifts on 6 December.
Brazil Papai Noel, who usually wears a silk clothe, will bring the gifts for Christmas.
Russia On 1 January, D’yed Moroz bring gifts and he arrives at the Kremlin celebration aboard a Sputnik-drawn sleigh.
Sweden A gnome called “Juletomten” brings gifts in a sleigh driven by goats.
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