1. Santa Claus - North America
Clad in a red suit, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. Every Christmas Eve, he travels the world giving present to good children from his magical sleigh pulled by nine reindeer.
2. Papa Noel - Brazil
Papa Noel and his helpers hide presents throughout the houses of good children on Christmas Eve. Traditionally kids serve their parents breakfast in bed before they begin to hunt down their gifts.
3. Sinterklaas - The Netherlands
Sinterklaas arrives via steamboat from Spain in mid-November. On the evening of December 5th, children leave a shoe in front of the fireplace or the backdoor with a carrot for his magical horse. Presents are scattered around the house with a note saying where to look.
4. St. Nicholas - Germany
Identical to Sinterklaas in almost every way, St. Nicholas of Myra is the historical basis for many current Christmas traditions. A 4th century Greek saint, St. Nick was well known for his love of secret gift-giving.
5. Nisse - Norway
No bigger than a horse’s head, the Norwegian Nisse were a group of barn elves. On Christmas Eve, farmers would leave out porridge and beer to thank them for their year of hard work. However, if they farmers weren’t “good” by putting out gifts, the Nisse would cause mischief.
6. Ded Moroz - Russia
Driving a sleigh pulled by three horses, Ded Moroz delivers gifts to good children on New Year’s Eve with the help of his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden.
7. Yule Lads - Iceland
Instead of one gift-giver, in Iceland there are 13. Each of the Yule Lads is responsible for leaving a specific type of gift in the shoes placed by children into their windows. One gift for each of the last 13 nights before Christmas Eve.
8. St. Basil - Greece
The other historical figure upon which Santa is based, St. Basil traditionally brings gifts to good Greek children on January 1st.
9. Mikulás - Hungary
On December 6th, Mikulás leaves sweets in the shoes of good Hungarian children and willow switches in the shoes of naughty ones. However, since most children are not completely good OR bad, they receive both.
10. Tomte - Sweden
Very similar to the Nisse, the Swedish Tomte was originally a mischievous homestead elf. Over the years, they grew in size and became a singular person instead of a species. Slender and occasionally riding a goat, the Tomte delivers gifts in exchange for porridge.
11. Father Christmas - England
Father Christmas and his role is nearly identical to the Santa of North America save for the color of his coat.
12. Noel Baba - Turkey
Noel Baba is the bearer of gifts to children and adults alike.Since Turkey is mostly a Muslim nation, he visits on New Year’s Day instead of December 25th, leaving presents under pine trees known as New Year trees.
13. Père Noël - France
On Christmas Eve, French children leave their shoes by the fireplace or heat vent filled with carrots and treats for Père Noël’s donkey, Gui. If they’ve been good Père Noël will take the treats and leave presents in their place.
14. Joulupukki - Finland
Unlike other Santa figures, Finland’s Joulupukki is not sneaky. Instead of coming in the night, he knocks on the door during Christmas Eve celebrations and personally hands out gifts to good children. The other notable difference is his reindeer do not fly since he lives in the local Korvatunturi mountains.
15. Befana - Italy
Befana delivers presents to Italian children on January 5th, or Epiphany Eve. Usually portrayed as an old lady covered in soot from going down chimneys, Befana travels by broomstick leaving presents for good kids and coal for bad ones. Being a good housekeeper, she will sweep the floor of her sooty feet before she leaves.
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