Believing in Santa Claus

Santa Claus Stories from Around the World

Elsie Goycoolea
By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: June 4, 2019
Santa Claus Stories from Around the World

Perhaps the most well-known Santa Claus story is the tale of a white-bearded man dressed in a bold red suit who on the 24th of December leaves the North Pole and travels all around the world delivering gifts to children who are sleeping. On the following day, it is a Christmas tradition to wake up at the crack of dawn to open up Christmas presents. However, in many countries Santa Claus may have different name, may also dress differently and that is because many cultures have developed different traditions around the man that brings happiness to many children every year.

In this OneHowTo article we share Santa Claus stories from around the world.

You may also be interested in: How Christmas Is Celebrated Around The World
  1. La Befana, Italy
  2. Sinterklaas, Netherlands
  3. Le Père Fouettard and Père Noël, France
  4. Hoteiosho, Japan
  5. Jolasveinar, Iceland

La Befana, Italy

In Italy, it is not a man but a woman who sneaks in on Christmas Eve. La Befana is an amicable witch who travels on her rusty broomstick from house to house delivering presents to all children. She is pictured in dark attire possibly due to climbing up and down chimneys. Unlike Santa Claus, you wouldn’t leave cookies and milk, you would opt for leaving her a nice glass of Italian wine.

Santa Claus Stories from Around the World - La Befana, Italy

Sinterklaas, Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Santa Claus is called Sinterklaas and the story behind the name is quite interesting. Sinterklaas travels from Spain to the Netherlands every year at the end of November. He will have then three weeks to deliver the presents. Sinterklaas makes it to every household on top of his white horse and is guided by little helper called Black Peter. Black Peter is actually the one who will enter the houses and place the presents under the Christmas tree. The people often celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on the 5th and 6th of December to commemorate the day of Saint Nicholas.

Santa Claus Stories from Around the World - Sinterklaas, Netherlands

Le Père Fouettard and Père Noël, France

In French speaking countries, Père Noël stands for Father Christmas. Very similar to the American tradition, this is the man that will deliver presents on Christmas Eve to children that have been good during the year. However, there is a second man called Le Père Fouettard or “Father Whipper” who travels alongside delivering bags of coal to the children who were badly behaved. The tradition says that he came with a whip although this belief it seems to have faded away over the years.

Santa Claus Stories from Around the World - Le Père Fouettard and Père Noël, France

Hoteiosho, Japan

The Japanese culture may be one of the most ancient in the world. Christmas is not a traditional celebration yet a version of this famous holiday has swept into the culture. Hoteiosho is a buddhist monk who carries a large sack of toys around his belly. It is said that he has eyes behind his head so he knows which children are deserving of gifts. he is the god of fortune so instead of looking scary he is often represented as jovial and caring.

Santa Claus Stories from Around the World - Hoteiosho, Japan

Jolasveinar, Iceland

Way up in Iceland, the story says that there are actually thirteen Santa Claus. Commonly known as the Yule Lads, the tradition says that thirteen sons of mountain trolls used to forage and steal from farmers’ houses. Over the years, people like to believe that Yule Lads will go from house to house during the 13 days before Christmas leaving gifts to the children who were good and leaving rotten potatoes inside the shoes of children who were badly behaved.

Santa Claus Stories from Around the World - Jolasveinar, Iceland

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Santa Claus Stories from Around the World