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Every country has its own Santa

globtra x mas2 - Every country has its own Santa
St. Nick, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Santa Claus,
Święty Mikołaj, Mikuláš, Papai Noel, Babbo Natale, La Befana, Дед Мороз

Christmas is a magic time that we are looking forward to. Children especially await Santa Claus and presents. However, is it always Santa that brings them?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the happiest season of all
There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

These are the lyrics of the Christmas hit song from 1963 performed by Andy Williams. What was so special about the Christmas that authors – Eddie Pola and George Wyle wrote about? Most likely, everything that the song itself is talking about – the sounds of jingle bells, Christmas wishes, friends visits, family reunions, joyful meetings, singing Christmas carols, ghost stories and other traditional tales. We agree – all of this, undoubtedly, has its charm and makes most of us look forward to Christmas time for these particular moments. However, what probably pleases everyone even more, especially children, and which the authors of this song did not mention are, of course, presents! In most countries, where Christmas is celebrated, kids anxiously await the moment when they can open the mysterious packages or boxes and look inside. Waiting for gifts itself is exciting, as is the confrontation with the one who provides them.

Who really brings presents at Christmas around Europe and outside?

It is widely accepted that it is Santa Claus – a slightly obese, jolly old man in red outfit, with a long, grey beard. It is the most popular image of Santa, taken from an American advertisement of a carbonated drink everyone knows;) However, many countries have their own characteristic courier who delivers presents at Christmas. Around the world, there are lots of different names for Santa Claus, and the idea has been adopted and interpreted in various ways.

United Kingdom

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In Great Britain and most Anglo-Saxon countries, it is St. Nick, Father Christmas or just Santa Claus who delivers presents. The legend has it on the night of 24/25 December he gets into the houses through the chimney and leaves presents under the Christmas tree or at the fireplace. Hence, in many houses, mantle pieces are decorated with Christmas stockings that Santa can fill with small gifts and sweets. In exchange for his generosity, St. Nick receives milk and biscuits as a special treat.  In the UK, it’s common to leave a mince pie (a traditional festive pastry) and a glass of whisky / sherry for Santa, and a carrot for the reindeer! The legend, however, does not say what happens if you live in a block of flats or there is no chimney in the building – let’s assume that Santa will deal with it resourcefully ;-). The time to open Christmas presents is Christmas Day, but you need to be vigilant. Santa knows everything, including who was naughty and who was nice and draws up his list of presents accordingly. He leaves only charcoal to naughty children.

Poland

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We bet it is much better for the kids to be in Poland when it comes to giving presents, at least in December:) Why? It is common that children get presents twice: first on December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day, which recognizes the third-century saint who became an inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus, and then on Christmas Eve, which is December 24th. In November, Polish children write letters to Święty Mikołaj – well in advance so that he would have time to plan his errands efficiently before December 6th. Letters are left on the windowsill and they disappear in a mysterious way in order to materialize on December 6th in the form of a dream present left under the pillow or next to the bed. For naughty children, Santa can attach a twig ….  The second time when Santa arrives with presents is on December 24th, but, according to the tradition, in some regions it is the role of Aniołek (a Little Angel). In Silesia (south of the country), Dzieciątko Jezus (the Baby Jesus) leaves presents under the Christmas tree during Christmas Eve dinner. In Kashubian district (north of the country) and Wielkopolska (midwest), this role is taken over by Gwiazdor (a Starman). The name comes from the German Lutheran tradition and a group of carolers, in which one of them was recognized by the star he was carrying. A Starman is dressed in a sheepskin and a fur hat and carries a sack filled with presents for well-behaved children and only gives rods to those who are disobedient. For various reasons giving presents twice in December never happens in some families…

Czech and Slovakia

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The Czech and the Slovaks use a similar frequency of giving presents. Here, it is Mikuláš and he always appears in the company of the guards in costumes. Formerly, he was a ghost with a scythe in his hand, and the costume guys were to chase death out of the house. Today, adults dress up as Mikuláš and organize a joyful holiday for their children. On December 6th, children leave shoes or stockings on the windowsill and parents put small presents in them. Often grandparents and relatives are involved in giving presents, as well. These are, in addition to sweets, toys and other small gifts. For bigger presents the time comes on December 24th.

Portugal

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In Portugal, children receive gifts from Papai Noel on December 24th . An interesting fact is that in the city of Peso da Regua in the north of Portugal, the world’s largest statue of Saint Nicholas was erected. The metal monument, which measures almost 30 meters and weighs 25 tons, was built near the Douro River and is to promote the region famous for wines of Portugal and thus, attract tourists from around the world. So, in this case, it seems that Santa, apart from gifts, will also bring specific financial benefits to the province [click here].

Spain

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In the neighboring Spain, however, things look different presents -wise. The tradition of giving presents on December 6th and at Christmas is not very popular. Children, of course, are waiting for presents, but it is most likely they will get them on January 6th,  which is Epiphany. Then they are brought by the Three Kings, that is Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. In exchange for gifts in the evening, they receive a glass of sherry and a carrot to feed the camels on which they travel. Earlier, the youngest write letters to the Three Kings with a list of gifts they would like to receive and the good deeds they have done throughout the year. January 5th is the day when a big fiesta takes place in small and large cities in Spain – the so-called Cabalgata de Reyes Magos. The Processions of the Three Kings march through their streets.

Italy

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In Italy, it is Babbo Natale who brings presents on the first day of Christmas. However, there is also La Befana, a malicious fairy with a terrible appearance, who flies on a broom and brings presents to polite children on the night of January 6th. Naughty children are very afraid of her because for being disobedient they might receive a sack of ash, garlic or onion. To receive anything from La Befana, you need to prepare for her a glass of wine and citrus fruit in the evening. This character comes from the legend of the birth of Jesus. Apparently, Befana was late with the welcome of the Infant, and since then she has been flying on a broom to this day and tossing gifts through the chimney hoping that one will go to little Jesus.

Russia

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Ded Moroz (Дед Мороз) – literally Grandfather Frost – is known and loved by children in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, but also throughout the former Soviet Union, e.g. in Uzbekistan. By nature, he is quite similar to Santa Claus – he is wearing a white hat and a long blue or red sheepskin coat girded with a rope, but it is a completely separate figure, derived from the East Slavic folklore, with its own history and attributes. His house is located just behind the Belarusian border, in a deep forest, in the town of Kamieniaki. In Russia, however, he is better known to live in Wielki Ustiug (Veliky Ustyug). Every year on November 18th his birthday is celebrated there. Ded Moroz delivers presents on the New Year, traveling by three horses. Snowflake, his granddaughter, helps him.

For some time Ded Moroz was the object of attacks from the communists, who identified him with ignorance and superstition, but today he is doing well, visits children on New Year’s Day and copes well with the American competition:) It will be difficult to find this American style Santa, as we know him, in Russian cartoons.

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Addresses to Santa Claus

What about those who do not believe in Santa? We might convince them, though, that impossible does not exist at Christmas and miracles happen. For the sceptic ones we have the evidence but you must write a letter to Santa Claus, which will definitely be replied to. In Europe, he has several known addresses.

The most popular is the Finnish one in Rovaniemi.

Santa Claus
Arctic Circle
96930 Rovaniemi
FINLAND

Believe it or not, the German Santa Claus responds to letters in one of 16 languages (also in Polish!) He also attaches a small gift. The letter is sealed with a special Santa Claus stamp.

An den Weihnachtsmann
Weihnachtspostfiliale
16798 Himmelpfort
GERMANY

If you live in Poland, you will definitely save time by sending your letter to the Letters to Santa Claus Bureau in Lower Silesia

Biuro Listów do Świętego Mikołaja
Polska Wioska Świętego Mikołaja
Przystanek Mikołajów
57-215 Srebrna Góra
POLSKA

As you can see, every country has its customs and different traditions related to giving Christmas presents. The joy of giving is certainly of great value, but the most important is the time spent with your loved ones and sharing those magical moments with each other. Nevertheless, if a surprise gift falls from the sky unexpectedly, either from La Befana, Melchior or Mikuláš – it’s even better. We will not mind.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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