Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Santa Claus' Traditions

 The tradition of Santa Claus entering dwellings through the chimney is shared by many European seasonal gift-givers. In pre-Christian Norse tradition, Odin would often enter through chimneys and fireholes on the solstice. In the Italian Befana tradition, the gift-giving witch is perpetually covered with soot from her trips down the chimneys of children's homes. In the tale of Saint Nicholas, the saint tossed coins through a window, and, in a later version of the tale, down a chimney when he finds the window locked. In Dutch artist Jan Steen's painting, The Feast of Saint Nicholas, adults and toddlers are glancing up a chimney with amazement on their faces while other children play with their toys. The hearth was held sacred in primitive belief as a source of beneficence, and popular belief had elves and fairies bringing gifts to the house through this portal. Santa's entrance into homes on Christmas Eve via the chimney was made part of American tradition through Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas where the author described him as an elf.


  1. Many religious and spiritual traditions of the world, honor fire and the role of the fire tender or fire keeper.
    Fire was sacred to the ancient Celts. The domestic hearth-fire was never allowed to die. Druids used sacred fires for divination. The hearth-fire was the center of Celtic Religious and family activity."Historically, Santa Clause always entered homes through the chimney. Almost all children’s stories showcase Santa making a grand entrance through the chimney down into the fireplace.
    According to Christmas folklore, when Santa drops by your house to deliver his presents, he doesn't knock on your door or break any windows in the process. Instead, after landing on your roof, Santa climbs down the chimney, stuffs your stockings, places gifts under the tree and takes a quick milk-and-cookies break before climbing back up the chimney.

  2. Santa Claus' traditions in different countries:

    Sinterklaas, The Netherlands

    Dutch Santa Claus is elderly, looks more like a pope than a jolly fat man, and wears stately robes. He hangs out with a guy named Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) and takes a steamboat over to Holland from Spain in mid-November. (Currently, it should be noted, he resides in Spain, but before his current gig, Sinterklaas worked as a bishop over in Turkey.) He then has three weeks, rather than one night, to distribute gifts to good children, flying over roofs by white horse and dropping them down chimneys. Meanwhile, he and his cronies — six to eight, er, black men who give David Sedaris’ story about Sinterklaas its name — snatch up the bad children, beat them with switches, stuff them into body bags, and take them back to Spain.

    La Befana, Italy

    Depending on where in Italy you live, you’ll either get your presents on the Epiphany or on Christmas, but they’ll likely be brought to you by La Befana, the friendly holiday witch who leaves candies, figs, and goodies in good kids’ socks and coal — or dark candy — in bad kids’. If Santa has a cookie addiction, La Befana is something of a wino, so parents leave out a glass of wine for the witch to enjoy after traveling across the sky on her broomstick.

    Jultomte, Sweden

    Originally it was a Christmas goat, the julbock, who delivered presents and holiday cheer to Swedes, but over the past century or so, they’ve phased out the goat and phased in the Jultomte, a mythical figure who’s usually small, old, bearded, and capped, much like a garden gnome or a brownie (a similar creature that does housework for you).

    Ded Moroz, Russia

    Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, dresses in a fairly Santa fashion, carrying with him an added magical staff and never going anywhere without his granddaughter Sengurochka, Snow Girl. Together, the two plan New Year’s Eve parties for kids, where they hand out gifts without the secrecy attributed to some St. Nicholas figures. Depending on where you’re from, Ded Moroz either lives in Veliky Ustug or Belavezhskaya Pushcha, arriving from either of them by troika of white horses.

    The Three Kings, Puerto Rico

    In Puerto Rico, the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, are the exciting gift givers of the holiday season. On Three Kings Day, also known as Epiphany or January 6th, children fill up boxes with grass for the three kings’ camels to eat. The camels feast, and the three kings thank the generous children by replacing the grass with gifts and sweets.

  3. Joulupukki

    This name comes from the country Finland. Literally meaning: Yule Buck. This Old pagan tradition remained strong in Finland but >got a Christian flavor as time went by.

    Pagan people used to have festivities to ward off evil spirits. In Finland these spirits of darkness wore goat skins and horns. In the beginning this creature didn't give presents but demanded them. The Christmas Goat was an ugly creature and frightened children.

    It is unclear how this personality was transformed into the benevolent Father Christmas. Nowadays the only remaining feature is the name. The process was probably a continuous amalgamation of many old folk customs and beliefs from varied sources. One can speak of a Christmas pageant tradition consisting of many personages with roles partly Christian, partly pagan: A white-bearded saint, the Devil, demons, house gnomes, whatnot.Nowadays the Joulupukki of Finland resembles the American Santa Claus.

    Popular radio programs from the year 1927 onwards probably had great influence in reformatting the concept with the Santa-like costume, reindeer and Korvatunturi (Mount Ear, near Polar Circle) as its dwelling place. Because there really are reindeer in Finland, and we are living up North, the popular American cult took root in Finland very fast. Maybe some caring soul decided the Joulupukki is just too scary for little kids.

    Today, Finland is one of the few countries where kids actually see Father Christmas in the act of delivering the presents and probably the only country where the Saint really does ask the children if they behaved during the year.

  4. Santa Claus' traditions in Norway:
    The Norwegian "Nisse" is not like his American relative Santa Claus. The Norwegian "Nisse" differs from both Santa Claus and St. Nicholas. There are several types of "nisser" in Norway.
    The most known is the "Fjøsnisse" which is a "nisse" who takes care of the animals on the farms. He wears clothes of wool and often has a red knitted hat. The "Fjøsnisse" often plays tricks on people. Sometimes he will scare people by blowing out the lights in the barn or he will scare the farm dog at night. You can hear the dogs bark! He can become very friendly with the people that live on the farm, but one should never forget to give him a large portion of porridge on Christmas Eve - or else he will play tricks for example move the animals around in the barn, braid the horses' mane and tail, and other tricks like that.........
    Of course they also have a Christmas nisse (julenissen) which in most homes is more or less identical to Santa Claus. The "Julenisse" brings presents to all the nice children on Christmas Eve. He is not as shy as Santa though, since the "julenisse" delivers the presents himself. He does not come down the chimney in the middle of the night.

  5. The Santa Tradition in Australia

    Australian children write their letters and address them to Santa at the North Pole just like they do in the Northern Hemisphere, but different families have their own traditions. Some children write no letters at all, and some have to limit requests to one item. In some families presents from Santa appear under the tree and these are considered the children’s gifts, adults then only give presents to each other, and in some households Santa gifts miraculously appear in stockings and other gifts are also laid out under the tree from and to all family members. Santa traditions are as individual as the families he visits.

  6. In Brazil Santa Claus is little known and those who do know of the jolly fellow call him Papa Noel.

    The children have no Christmas trees, but they do have a crиche or Presepio, representing the Christ-child's birth. Gifts and toys are exchanged during the holidays after which the Presepio is put away until the following Christmas.

    In Ecuador the children write letters to the Christ-child and place shoes in the window in which he may place toys as he passes by on Christmas Eve. Noise-making toys are common and are used with much energy on the streets on Christmas morning.

    Since the weather is very warm, most celebrations are in the streets. There are firecrackers, brass bands, and dancing. At midnight everyone goes to Mass. after which the family dinner is enjoyed.