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The Many Faces of Santa
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Copyright: 2005 Marilyn Pokorney
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Santa Claus actually started out as a version of Poseidon,
Greek god of the sea, known as Neptune by the Romans. Early
Greek sailors feared him. He could bring terrible storms in
the sea, or grant them safe journeys. Because he could save
them from the angry waters, he because known as "giver of
all good things". The Romans and Greeks held a festival on
December 6 in his honor.
Many countries still celebrate Christmas on December 6 but
due to the rise of Christianity, the day was changed to St.
Nicholas Day in honor of an Asian bishop. Nicholas of Myra
was a benevolent bishop who wore red clothing, rode a white
horse who could fly, and delivered gifts anonymously.
In America, we celebrate with Santa and his flying reindeer.
But many countries still celebrate with their own unique
version of Santa.
In Sicily, it is the spirits of departed loved ones who
bring gifts to children.
Italian children wait for a kindly old witch named Befana
who flies through the air on a broom.
A Russian counterpart is known as Baboushka. Also called
Grandfather Frost in some parts of the country.
In Holland "Sintirklass" arrives by boat on December 6th.
Children leave a wooden shoe filled with hay and carrots for
the donkey which carries the pack of toys.
In Sweden a gnome called "Juletomten" brings gifts in a
sleigh driven by goats.
In Germany and Switzerland the "Christkindl", or Christ
Child, brings the gifts. In some towns, Christkindl is an
angel who comes down from heaven to give gifts.
In Australia Santa rides water skis, has a white beard, and
red bathing suit.
In China, Christmas Old Man, brings gifts to children.
In England, Father Christmas wears a longer coat and has a
In France he's known as Pere Noel.
All of Latin America and Spain are predominantly Catholic so
Baby Jesus, el Niņo Jesus, brings the gifts.
In Puerto Rico, children receive gifts from the Three Kings
on January 6th, also called Epiphany. Every child puts
grass under their bed for the camels. In the morning the
grass is replaced with gifts. But since Puerto Rico is part
of the United States, major gift giving is done on December
25 from Santa Claus.
In Morocco he is known as Black Peter.
In Japan, Santa Claus is called just "Santa" and many
children still call him "Santa no ojisan," which means
No matter what name a child calls Santa, it's a thrill to
write to, and get an answer from the North Pole.
For more information on how to write to Santa Claus:
About the author:
Author: Marilyn Pokorney
Freelance writer of science, nature, animals and the
Also loves crafts, gardening, and reading.
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