Julemanden (Faroese: Jólamaður, Greenlandic: Juulimaaq) can be directly translated to "The Yule-Man" or "The Christmas-man". He is often illustrated as a short, bearded man dressed in gray clothes and a red hat.
In modern Danish culture Julemanden is the equivalent of the English Father Christmas although the roots of the character reach into Danish folklore and mythology wherein Julemanden is a mythical character who is said to bring Christmas presents to children in Denmark on Christmas Eve, celebrated December 24.
According to myths, he would come to houses either by foot or by sleigh and often wears fur to keep him warm.
Julemanden is a relatively new phenomenon in Denmark, appearing some time after World War II (1939-1945). Until then, there was "Nissefar", "Nissekongen" or "Julenissen" - a character with several resemblances to the modern "Julemand". This tradition is traced back centuries when people believed in Nisser (elves, leprechauns, spirits or mystical entities rarely or never seen directly). Local folklore dictated the expected actions of the Nisser, which could be moody creatures resulting in all kinds of fortunes or even disasters.
The role of the "Julenisse" was to bring good fortune to the family and to achieve this, he would have to be treated well especially around Jul (Yule, in December). This was achieved by feeding him, traditionally with some form of porridge (now rice porridge). Traditionally, the porridge was to be placed in the household attic as this was said to be the place where the Nisse supposedly lived and if the Nisse was satisfied with the meal he would bring good fortune to the household in the coming year.
The "Julenisse" is still, however, "celebrated" and he acts as a stand-in for "Julemanden" in early December, to entertain the childish mind, bring small gifts and sometimes plays tricks on the household, kindergarten etc. where such "creatures" can prosper.
The gift-giving Nisse that became "Nissekongen" seems to have drawn influences from the American "Santa", when American culture began making an impact in Denmark, but rather than outright copying him, local traditions were tweaked, eventually resulting in a "Father Christmas" type character with only traces of the original "Nisse" and in some respects indistinguishable from "Santa".
In an attempt to attract more than 800,000 tourists, the Tivoli theme park in Copenhagen replaced their Julemanden display to that of its Russian counterpart – Father Frost in 2011.
In Denmark a special postal address is used by Post Danmark for children who want to write to Julemanden:
Rensdyrvej translates as "Reindeer Way", while the PO Box number 2412 is a reference to 24 December.