Christmas gift-bringers in Europe
Christmas gift-bringers in Europe

This is a list of Christmas and winter gift-bringer figures from around the world.

The history of mythical or folkloric gift-bringing figures who appear in winter, often at or around the Christmas period, is complex, and in many countries the gift-bringer – and the gift-bringer's date of arrival – has changed over time as native customs have been influenced by those in other countries. While many though not all gift-bringers originated as religious figures, gift-bringing is often now a non-religious custom and secular figures exist in many countries that have little or no tradition of celebrating Christmas as a religious festival. Some figures are entirely local, and some have been deliberately and more recently invented.

The main originating strands – all of which have their roots in Europe – are

Not all gift-bringers were or are specifically focused on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day: other common customs are 6 December (St Nicholas), 1 January, New Year (St Basil, or secular), and 6 January, Epiphany (Three Kings).

The international popularity of the figure of Santa Claus has transformed the older traditions of many countries.[2]

List of gift-bringers

Given the overlapping nature of gift-bringers throughout the world in name, attributes, date of arrival, and religious versus secular identity, this list may include winter gift-bringers that are not specifically associated with Christmas. The list should however not include mythical or folkloric characters that do not bring gifts, such as Father Time.

Nation Old man Child Other Notes
 Afghanistan Papa Noël (Pashto/Dari: بابا نويل baba noel); Baba Chaghaloo
 Albania Babai i Krishtlindjeve (Father Christmas)
 Andorra Pare Noel (Father Christmas) Els Tres Reis (The Three Kings)
 Argentina Papá Noel[3] (Father Christmas) El Niño Dios (Child God) Reyes Magos[4] (The Three Wise Men) 6 January;
 Armenia Dzmer Papik (Winter Grandfather) Gaghant Baba Gaghant Baba is a more traditional figure associated with the old Armenian new year (gaghant), while Dzmer Papik is a more recent importation to the Republic of Armenia
 Australia Father Christmas (or Santa Claus)
 Austria St Nikolaus or Nikolo 6 December. Christkind[5] (Christ Child)
 Azerbaijan Şaxta Baba (Father Frost)
 Belarus Дзед Мароз (Dzied Maroz) (Grandfather Frost) Śviaty Mikałaj (Saint Nicholas) was largely replaced by Dzeid Maroz during the Soviet period.

Kerstman (Christmas man) and Sinterklaas, 6 December, for Dutch speakers; Père Noël[6] (Father Christmas) and St Nicholas, 6 December, for French speakers

Le Petit Jesus[3] (Baby Jesus) for French speakers
 Bolivia Papá Noel (Father Christmas) El Niño Dios (Child God)
 Bosnia Djed Božićnjak (also known as Božić Bata or Djed Mraz) 1 January
 Brazil Papai Noel,[7] Bom Velhinho (Good Little Oldie).
 Bulgaria Дядо Коледа (Dyado Koleda) (Father Christmas)
 Canada Santa Claus,[8] Père Noël[8] (Father Christmas) for French speakers
 Chile El Viejito Pascuero[9] (The Easter Oldman), referring to him appearing at "Christmas Time", which in Chile is often called "Nativity's Easter" (Pascua de la Natividad) or simply "Easter" (Pascua), in contrast to "Resurrection Easter" (Pascua de Resurrección).
 China Shengdan laoren (Traditional Chinese: 聖誕老人, Simplified Chinese: 圣诞老人, Cantonese: sing daan lo jan, pinyin: shèngdànlǎorén (Old Man Christmas)[10]
 Colombia Papá Noel (Father Christmas) El Niño Dios[11] (Child God), El Niño Jesús (Child Jesus)
 Costa Rica Santa Clós (Santa Claus),[12] San Nicolás (Saint Nicholas) or his nickname Colacho. El Niño Dios[12] (Child God)
 Croatia Djed Božićnjak (Grandfather Christmas), Sveti Nikola (Saint Nicholas)[13] 6 December Mali Isus (Baby Jesus) In Dalmatia and Slavonia, Saint Lucy[13] arrives on the eve of her feast day, 13 December.
 Cyprus Άγιος Βασίλειος ο Μέγας (Saint Basil the Great) 1 January
 Czech Republic Angel and devil accompanying Svatý Mikuláš[14] (Saint Nicholas) 6 December Ježíšek[15] (Baby Jesus)
 Denmark Julemanden[16] (Christmas Man)
 Dominican Republic Papá Noel (Father Christmas), Santa Clós (Santa Claus) Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings)[17] 6 January, Vieja Belén[17] (Old Lady of Bethlehem)
 Ecuador Papá Noel (Father Christmas) El Niño Dios (Child God) The Three Kings 6 January[18]
 Egypt Papa Noël (Arabic: بابا نويل Baba Noel)
 England Father Christmas[19] or synonymously Santa Claus[20] Before mid-Victorian times Father Christmas was a different folkloric figure representing good cheer, and did not bring gifts.[21][22]
 Estonia Jõuluvana (Old Man of Christmas)
 Finland Joulupukki (Yule Goat)[23]
 France - Le Père Noël[24] (Father Christmas)

- Saint Nicolas (Saint Nicholas) in Alsace, Lorraine, the Ardennes, Franche-Comté, the Low Countries and the Argonne, 6 December

- Olentzero in the Basque Country

- Saint Martin in Alsace, Franconian Lorraine and Maritime Flanders, 10 or 11 November[25] [26] [27]

- Le Père Janvier (Father January) in Burgundy, Nivernais and Bourbonnais, 31 December - 1 January[28]

- Le Petit Jésus (Child Jesus)[24]

- Le Christkindel (Christkind) in Alsace and Franconian Lorraine, 6 December[29]

- Tante Arie (Aunt Arie, a fairy) in the County of Montbéliard[24]

- Les Rois mages (the Three Kings) in Roussillon, 6 January

- Berchta in Alsace[30]

 Georgia თოვლის ბაბუა [tovlis babua] (Snow Grandfather) 1 January
 Germany Weihnachtsmann[31] (Christmas Man) in Protestant areas; Nikolaus, 6 December. Christkind[31] (Christ Child) in Catholic areas Nikolaus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus, Belsnickel or other servants in some regions of Germany.
 Greece Άγιος Βασίλειος ο Μέγας[32] (Saint Basil the Great) 1 January
 Haiti Tonton Nwèl (Père Noël)
 Honduras Santa Claus[33] The Three Kings[33]
 Hong Kong 聖誕老人 (jyutping: sing3 daan3 lou5 jan4) (Christmas Old Man), Santa Claus, St Nicholas, Father Christmas
 Hungary Télapó (Father Christmas); Mikulás[34] (Nicholas) 6 December Jézuska" or "Kis Jézus" (Child Jesus) Angels accompanying the baby Jesus[33] Mikulás is accompanied by krampusz, generally bringing virgács (rod for whipping) to children who did not behave well
 Iceland Jólasveinar[35] (Yulemen or Yule Lads) In Icelandic folk tales there are numerous Jólasveinar, which come on different dates.[35]
 India Santa Claus, Father Christmas Known as Natal Bua (Christmas Elder Man) in Marathi; Christmas Thatha (Christmas Grandpa) in Tamil and Telugu; Christmas Pappa (Christmas Father) in Malayalam.
 Indonesia Santa Claus, Sinterklas
 Iran Santa Claus,[36] Baba Noel[36] (Persian: بابا نوئل); Amu Nowruz (Persian: عمو نوروز, "Uncle Nowruz"), also known as Papa Nowruz (Persian: بابا نوروز – Bābā Nowruz), Spring Equinox (20 March).
 Ireland Santa Claus, Father Christmas,[36] Daidí na Nollag[37] for Irish speakers
 Italy Babbo Natale[38] (Father Christmas); in Trieste, St Nicholas 6 December. Gesù bambino (Baby Jesus) La Befana[38] 6 January. In Sicily,[38] Udine, Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Lodi, Mantova, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Verona and Western Trentino, St Lucy[38] arrives on the eve of her feast day, 13 December.
 Japan Santa Kurōsu (サンタクロース) or Santa-san (サンタさん)[39] is known, but is not a traditional visitor On 2 Jan[40] the Seven Lucky Gods bring metaphorical treasures in their treasure ship Takarabune[41]
 Korea 산타 할아버지 (Santa Harabeoji) (Grandfather Santa), 산타 클로스 (Santa Claus)
 Latvia Ziemassvētku vecītis (Father Christmas)[42]
 Liechtenstein Christkind (Christ Child)
 Lithuania Kalėdų Senelis[43] (Grandfather Christmas)
 Luxembourg Kleeschen[44] (St Nicholas) Christkind (Christ Child)[44]
 Malta Father Christmas[45] (Missier il-Milied in Maltese)
 Mexico Santa Claus El Niño Dios[46] (Child God) Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings[46])
 Netherlands Kerstman[47] (Christmas Man), Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) 5 December Zwarte Piet[47] (Black Peter), accompanies Sinterklaas[47]
 North Macedonia Dedo Mraz
 New Zealand Father Christmas,[48] known in Maori as Hana Koko.
 Nicaragua El Niño[48] (The Child) The Three Kings[48]
 Norway Julenissen (Santa Claus) [49]
 Panama Santa Claus[50] Christ Child[50] The Three Kings[50] 6 January
 Paraguay Papá Noel (Father Christmas) El Niño Dios (Child God)
 Peru Papá Noel (Father Christmas), Santa Claus[51]
 Philippines Santa Claus, 24 December [52] Los Tres Reyes Magos, Tatlóng Haring Mago (The Three Kings), 5 January[52]
 Poland Gwiazdor (Star Man or Little Star[53]), Santa Claus,[53] Święty Mikołaj (St Nicolas) 6 December[53] Dzieciątko (Christ Child) in Silesia
 Portugal Pai Natal (Father Christmas), Santa Claus[54] Menino Jesus (Christ Child[54]) – now less common
 Puerto Rico Santa Clós (Santa Claus)[55] Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings)
 Romania Moş Crăciun[56] (Old Man Christmas, Christmas Old Man, Grandfather Christmas, Christmas Grandfather), Moş Nicolae (St Nicholas) 6 December Jézuska or Kis Jézus (Child Jesus) (for the Hungarian minorities) Angyal (The Angel) (for the Hungarian minorities) Moş Gerilă (Grandfather Frost, Old Man Frost) during the previous Communist era[56]
 Russia Дед Мороз (Ded Moroz) (Grandfather Frost[57]); in Sakha Republic (Yakutia) Чысхаан (Chyskhaan) (Lord of the Cold); in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug – Ямал Ири (Yamal Iri) (Grandpa of Yamal) Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden and granddaughter of Ded Moroz) and the New Year Boy[57] Before 1917, during the pre-Communist era, the gift-bringers were St Nicholas, Baboushka and Kolyáda[57]
 Scotland Santa Claus; Bodach na Nollaig (Scots Gaelic: Old Man of Christmas)
 Serbia Now Деда Мраз (Deda Mraz) (Grandpa Frost) 1 January; previously Божић Бата (Božić Bata) (Christmas Brother)
 Slovakia Angel and devil accompanying Svätý Mikuláš[14] (Saint Nicholas) 6 December Ježiško (Baby Jesus)
 Slovenia Miklavž (St Nicholas),[58] Dedek Mraz (Grandpa Frost), Božiček (Santa Claus) Jezušček (Baby Jesus) Sveti trije kralji (The Three Kings)
 South Africa Sinterklaas, Father Christmas,[59] Santa Claus
 Spain Papá Noel[60] (Father Christmas) ; Olentzero in the Basque Country and Navarre;[60] Apalpador in Galicia The Three Kings 6 January;[60] Tió de Nadal in Catalonia;[61] Anjanas in Cantabria; Anguleru in Asturias; Mari Domingi, a recent female companion for Olentzero in the Basque Country and Navarre.[62]
 Sri Lanka Naththal Seeya
 Sweden Jultomten[63] (Christmas Gnome) Julbock (Christmas Goat) until the 19th century[60]
 Switzerland St Nicholas (known as Samichlaus to German-speakers and San Nicolao to Italian),[64] Père Noël[64] (Father Christmas) for French-speakers Christkind (Christ Child) in some areas,[60] Gesù bambino (Baby Jesus) in Italian-speaking areas[60] La Befana in Italian-speaking areas[60]
 Syria Papa Noël (Arabic: بابا نويل baba noel)
 Taiwan 聖誕老人 or 聖誕老公公 (Old Man of Christmas)
 Thailand ซานตาคลอส (Santa Claus)
 Turkey Noel Baba (Father Christmas) or Grandfather Gaxan (Alevi areas) 1 January
 Turkmenistan Aýaz baba
 Ukraine Святий Миколай (Sviatyj Mykolaj) (St Nicholas),[65] Дід Мороз (Did Moroz) (Grandfather Frost)[65] Christmas is celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar on 7 January[65]
 Uruguay Papá Noel (Father Christmas) El Niño Dios (Child God) Los Reyes Magos on 6 January [66]
 United States Santa Claus;[65] sometimes Kris Kringle
 Uzbekistan Ayoz Bobo (Frost Grandpa), Qor Bobo (Snow Grandfather)
 Venezuela San Nicolás (St. Nicholas)[67] El Niño[4] (The Child) Reyes Magos[4] (The Three Wise Men) 6 January
 Vietnam Ông Già Nô-en (Old Man of Christmas)
 Wales Father Christmas, Santa Claus; Siôn Corn[68] in Welsh (literally Chimney John)[69]

See also


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  6. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 20.
  7. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 29.
  8. ^ a b Bowler 2000, p. 35.
  9. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 42.
  10. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 43.
  11. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 51.
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  13. ^ a b Bowler 2000, p. 54.
  14. ^ a b Bowler 2000, p. 55.
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  17. ^ a b Bowler 2000, pp. 71–72.
  18. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 73.
  19. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 28 December 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Father Christmas". Collins English Dictionary. Collins. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  21. ^ Roud, Steve (2006). The English Year. London: Penguin Books. pp. 385–387. ISBN 978-0-140-51554-1.
  22. ^ Hutton, Ronald (1996). The Stations of the Sun. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 117–118. ISBN 0-19-820570-8.
  23. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 82.
  24. ^ a b c Bowler 2000, p. 86.
  25. ^ "La Saint-Martin :: Office de tourisme des Hauts de Flandre".
  26. ^ "Scherwiller. La fête de la Saint-Martin revient".
  27. ^ "La Saint Martin".
  28. ^ van Gennep, Arnold (1958). Manuel de folklore français contemporain tome 1 ; livre 7 cycle des douze jours : Noël (in French). Paris: Editions A. et J. Picard et Cie. pp. 3014–3016.
  29. ^ "Qui est le Christkindel en Alsace ?". 7 November 2017.
  30. ^ "Goodies - Personnages de Noël - Écomusée d'Alsace".
  31. ^ a b Bowler 2000, p. 91.
  32. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 87.
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  50. ^ a b c Bowler 2000, p. 170.
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  55. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 184.
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  59. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 211.
  60. ^ a b c d e f g Bowler 2000, p. 212.
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  63. ^ Bowler 2000, p. 219.
  64. ^ a b Bowler 2000, p. 220.
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