Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Julemanden and Ded Moroz, all have one thing in common; they are all Christmas gift-bringers. Christmas gift-bringers are known by different names in different cultures. One can observe the many forms of 'Father Christmas' throughout the history of European legends. The belief that a whimsical figure brought gifts for children during the winter season can be traced back to ancient times. As quirky as it may sound, popular legends of some countries even included trolls, elves and goblins, who brought gifts during the Christmas time. The tradition of presenting gifts began even before the inception of Christianity and took its place in European folklore. In the context of Christianity, one can trace back gifts exchange to the tale of the 'Three Kings' who are said to have offered gifts to baby Jesus. Almost all Christmas characters have been inspired by a humble man, called Saint Nicholas, and his generosity. Today, Christmas celebrations are incomplete without the custom of giving gifts. Read on to learn more about the different, legendary Christmas gift-bringers that are known distinctively around the world.
Legendary Present-Giving Figures
Centuries have passed and Christmas traditions have evolved over the years. Although some traditions have changed, the custom of presenting children with gifts during Christmas is still followed and is inerasable from traditions. It has become such an important part of Christmas traditions that people and children today, associate Christmas with presents. Little children write letters to various Christmas figures. They also hang shoes or stockings with treats and place them under Christmas trees, near fireplaces or windowsills in the hope of receiving gifts. Christmas gift-bringers have been known by many names around the world, but they all ultimately represent Saint Nicholas and his deeds.
According to various legends, many Christmas figures were depicted as old men, with white beards and red attire. Although this description may seem similar to Santa Claus, it is in fact, derived from Saint Nicholas; the original Santa Claus and the Bishop of Myra during the fourth century. Saint Nicholas was reputed for his humility and his generosity towards children. Every year he would present them with small treats, knick-knacks, and gifts for which he was famous in many parts of the world. Just as Santa Claus is believed to be the gift-giver in the U.S, in the same way, several other Christmas figures of different countries are known to bring gifts to children during the festive season. Inspired by the 'giving' of St. Nicholas, many such characters evolved into various Christmas figures in various countries such as Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Ded Moroz and so on.
In countries like Switzerland, Austria and Germany, a heavenly angel known as 'Christkindl', visited homes and left toys for little children. Christkindl is depicted as a small child, dressed in white robes, with angelic wings and a halo over his head. He is believed to be Jesus Christ in his infant form.
The Three Wise Kings
The story of the 'Three Kings' offering gifts to baby Jesus, contributed to the beliefs of gift-giving customs during Christmas. The 'Magi' or the 'Three Wise Kings' are Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. These three wise men were kings, who set out to follow an evening star with sacks filled with gifts to offer baby Jesus.
'Baboushka' is an old woman, who according to Russian legends, travelled to different villages in search of baby Jesus. She left small gifts with children while they were sleeping in their beds. 'Befana' is an Italian version of Baboushka. In Italian Christmas folklore, the 'Crone of Befana' is an old woman clothed in black and riding a broomstick. She is believed to drop sweets for good children and bad children received coal, according to Italian myths.
In some cultures, goblins and gnomes appeared as gift-bringers. Elves dressed in white robes, riding on a sleigh, brought gifts for children in Scandinavia and Russia. 'Jultomten' is a gnome or dwarf-like creature, with a long white beard and dressed in red a robe, who is believed to leave gifts for children on Christmas Day in Sweden. In Syria, camels were believed to leave gifts for children.
According to legends, Christmas gift-bringing figures are diverse in its forms and are known by different appellations in different cultures. The tradition of gifting children during Christmas is an ancient one. Inspired by the kind-hearted nature of Saint Nicholas who gifted little children annually, many Christmas characters took shape over the years, making Christmas a more enjoyable festival. This year, sit your children down, and familiarize them with the different Santa's around the world. Merry Christmas!
Many Christmas gift-bringers exist in different legends. The tradition of gift-giving led to the creation of many Christmas characters. Read on to know more about the legendary present-giving figures.