Santa Claus, Father Christmas, St Nicholas, St Nick, Sinterklaas, Christkindl, Ded Moroz, the jolly man in the red suit – we could go on! There are many names for Santa Claus and depending on your country of origin there are differing views on how he looks, and what he actually does. The Jim Shore Christmas Collection features Santa’s from every corner of the globe, without further ado let’s go explore the story behind a few:
In Germany it’s the job of a little child called Christkind (Christ Child) to deliver Christmas gifts and they do so on the Holy Night (Christmas Eve night). A fellow called Nikolaus and his helpers also deliver goodies on December 6th (usually bringing cookies, nuts and maybe a small toy for those who have been very good). If you have been naughty you need to watch your step as tradition tells us that there is a rather unsavoury character called Knecht Ruprecht also doing the rounds on December 6th. He is on the lookout for those who have misbehaved and is rumoured to beat bad children with a stick (ouch)!
Home of the edelweiss flower, Switzerland has a special Santa day on the 6th December. On this day there’s a sort of good cop, bad cop vibe going on as “Samichlaus” and his companion “Schmutzli” appear from their cottage deep in the woods. They slowly make their way through the through the deep snow with a donkey at their side. Swiss children practise poems to recite and offer a promise that they will improve something about themselves over the forthcoming year. In return they are given peanuts, chocolate and ginger bread by Samichlaus as a reward. Tales of old were a little more brutal, proffering that while good children would receive treats, naughty children would be thrown into Schmutzli’s sack as punishment and carried away!
Christmas is a big affair in Spain. Things kick off on Christmas eve when oil lamps are lit, midnight mass is attended and a big celebratory feast is enjoyed by all. The Spanish even have a Christmas dance called the Jota, which is performed to the tune of guitars and the click of castanets. The Spanish Santa is known as Papa Noel, and he is not really known for bringing gifts. But he was thought to steal naughty children from their beds! In Spain it’s the three wise men (Los Tres Reyes) that supply the gifts (which makes sense as they brought the best goodies for baby Jesus in the form of gold, frankincense and myrrh). Gifts are traditionally given on the 6th January, three kings day, and not on the 25th December as in some countries.
It’s a shocking fact but it’s sadly true – Oliver Cromwell (who ruled the UK for a time) actually banned Christmas. In 1647 he declared that Christmas would not be celebrated or recognised by the UK and the ban stayed in place in England until his death fifteen years later. However, the ban was not lifted in Scotland and the country continued to ignore Christmas for around 400 years! The Presbyterian Church was not a fan of Christmas and decided that it would be better if the ban stayed in place for as long as possible, some Scottish citizens rebelled, but there were harsh consequences for those that were caught making merry! New Years Eve proved to be the day for celebration, with Scots coming out in force to celebrate Hogmanay. Nowadays the Scots celebrate Christmas Day and Hogmanay with a similar amount of gusto and thankfully Santa is now allowed to visit all the good little girls and boys.
The Russian Santa has a rather strange sounding name, he is known as “Ded Moroz” or sometimes as Morozko. The character is similar to Santa Claus and translated into English the name means “Grandfather Frost” or “Old Man Frost.” Only well-behaved kids receive a visit from Ded Moroz and presents are traditionally dropped off on New Year’s Eve.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Wherever you live in the world, whenever you exchange gives and whoever is rumoured to deliver them, Christmas tends to bring the same level of excitement and merry-making. It’s a time for family and friends, and to show appreciation to those we love and care for. Get yourself a huge dose of Christmas spirit and let’s celebrate with real gusto!