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Christmas Around The World

Bethany Clarke/Dan Kitwood/Alex Wong/Michael Bradley, Getty

Many of us celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas. And we’re all familiar with Santa Claus in his red suit, the sleigh, the flying reindeer.  But I thought it might be fun to take a journey around the world to explore the traditions that folks from other countries enjoy each Christmas!

  • Let’s start in Italy. Kids receive gifts from the good witch La Befana.  She was an old woman dressed in black, widowed, childless, when the Three Kings passed on their way to see the Christ child. When they asked her the way to Bethlehem she was busy cleaning and sent them away. Realizing her mistake, she left to search for the Baby Jesus. To this day she is still searching going from house to house on Epiphany, leaving a gift for good children.
  • In Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and South America, the Three Kings or Wise Men bring Christmas gifts to children.
  • In France children eagerly await the coming of Father Christmas or Pere Noel who brings their gifts.
  • In some cultures, Saint Nicholas travels with an assistant. The old bishop Sinterklass arrives in Holland on December 6 in his red bishop’s costume.  In many port towns, he is said to have sailed in on a ship from Spain. Black Peter walks with him with a black sack and a book recording each Dutch child’s behavior through the year. Good children receive a gift from the bishop while bad children may be carried away in Black Peter’s sack.
  • In Germany Saint Nicholas also travels with a helper, known as Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus, or Pelzebock, and comes with a sack on his back and a rod or switches in his hand. Saint Nicholas gives gifts to good children, while those who have been bad are punished by the assistant with a few hits of a switch.
  • In Austria and Switzerland it is Christkindl or the Christ Child who arrives bearing gifts. In some towns children await the Holy Child and in others Christkindl is a beautiful girl-angel who comes down from heaven bearing gifts.
  • And in England a thinner version of Santa Claus known as Father Christmas, wearing long red robes with sprigs of holly in his hair, delivers gifts to children.

 

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