Blogmas: Santa Around the World, Part One (9)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Welcome to Day 9 of Blogmas! If you want to see a running list of my Blogmas posts, you can check them out here. (:

In the U.S. we know him as "Santa Claus" but what's he called in different parts of the world? As I was researching, I found many intriguing legends of how countries around the world saw good ole St. Nick and I thought I'd share three of those legend with you guys.

P.S.: All the stories below came from!

1) Sinterklaas and Black Peter - Netherlands

A depiction of Sinterklaas and Black Peter (SOURCE)

Sinterklaas is quite similar to the famous St. Nick, with his red robe, long white beard and jolly demeanor. However, this Dutch Santa comes to the Netherlands in late November rather than late December. He travels via steamboat from Spain and once he arrives, he parades the city streets so he can meet all the Dutch children. Also, instead of elves, Sinterklaas has Black Peter, a little boy who helps him pass out presents.

Speaking of presents, instead of waiting until December 25th, Sinterklaas passes out presents on December 5th. The children leave their shoes by the fireplace along with some carrots for Sinterklaas' horse, and if they're good, Black Peter comes down the chimney and fills their shoes with candy and presents. But if they're bad, he leaves them coal or bags of salt. In older versions of the legend, Black Peter would kidnap the naughty kids and take them back to Spain as punishment.

2) The Yule Lads - Iceland

The Icelandic Yule Lads (SOURCE)
Instead of one person traveling the world to give presents, imagine 13 mischievous creatures! The Yule Lads, or Yule Men, first appeared in the early thirties when an Icelandic writer composed a short story of their roles during Christmas time.

The Yule Lads have gone through many different phases from lovable gift givers to annoying pests, however, generally they have become known for their playful nature. Each of the 13 have their own trick that they play, according to Wikipedia:

  1. Stekkjarstaur (Sheep-Cote Clod) - Harrasses sheep but has two peg legs
  2. Giljagaur (Gully Gawk) - Hides in gullies, waiting to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk
  3. Stúfur (Stubby) - Steals pans to eat the crust left on them but abnormally short
  4. Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker) - Steals Þvörur, a type of wooden spoon with a long handle, to lick, but is extremely thin due to malnutrition
  5. Pottaskefill (Pot-Scraper) - Steals leftovers from pots
  6. Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker) - Hides under beds waiting for people to put down their askur, a type of bowl with a lid used instead of dishes, so he can steal them
  7. Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer) - Likes to slam doors, especially during the night
  8. Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler) - Loves skyr, an Icelandic dairy product
  9. Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper) - Hides in rafters to steal sausages that were being smoked
  10. Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper) - Looks through windows to find something to steal
  11. Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer) - Uses his abnormally large nose and bad sense of smell to locate laufabrauð, a traditional Icelandic bread
  12. Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook) - Uses a hook to steal meat
  13. Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer) - Follows children so he can steal their candles, which back in the day used to be edible

Along with their tricks, they also give gifts to children with the help of the Yuletide Cat, which is a hungry cat that is known to eat bad children. The Yule Lads leave small gifts in the good childrens' shoes during the thirteen nights leading up to Christmas Eve, while the naughty children are given potatoes.

La Befana (SOURCE)

3) La Befana - Italy

She's a kind woman who gave food and shelter to three wise men while they were on their way to meet baby Jesus, but she's depicted as an old woman dressed in a black shawl who rides a broomstick and carries a bag of gifts. She's known as La Befana and she has become a big part of the Christmas celebrations in Italy.

This witch-like figure, similar to Santa Claus, comes down the chimney to leave gifts for the good children and a piece of coal or ash for the naughty ones. La Befana was also known as the best housekeeper across Italy, so she is also known to sweep the floor around the chimney on her way out.

Stay tuned for Part TWO of Santa Around the World!

Holiday Comment Challenge #9: 

Have you heard of any of these versions of "Santa?" Do you know any other Santa legends? Let me know in the comments below! (:

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