St. Nicholas: Eastern Europe, Western Asia

Saint Nicholas was born in the villiage of Patara, in what is now modern-day Turkey, during the Roman Empire’s rule of the world. The Emperor Constantine came to power during his life. Saint Nicholas was made the Bishop of Myra at a very young age and was known as a man who gave all he had to the needy. He died on December 6th, 343. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated every year on December 6th in many countries in Europe and West Asia.

Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost: Russia

Grandfather Frost resembles the appearance of Santa Claus, but instead of being secretive, Grandfather Frost shows up at New Year’s Eve parties and gives out gifts in person. He resembles Santa Claus, but also carries a large magical staff, like a wizard. He usually travels around with Snegurochka, or Snow Maiden, who is his granddaughter and helper. She is unique. No other gift-givers in other cultures have a female companion.

Father Christmas: England

The modern-day Santa Claus has his roots in the lore of Father Christmas. Father Christmas wears a longer coat and has a longer beard than the traditional Santa figure. The earliest mention of Father Christmas was in a Christmas carol attributed to Richard Smart from the mid-15th century. He is not described as giving gifts to children, rather he is announcing the celebration of Christ’s birth, calling all people to eat and drink.

Joulupukki or Christmas Goat: Finland

Rooted in pagan traditions, the Christmas Goat’s workshop is located in the mountains of Korvatunturi, Lapland. He doesn’t sneak around like his Western counterpart, but instead knocks on the door Christmas Eve and asks who has been good. Joulupukki does not have elves, but dwarves as helpers that ride goats.

Pere Noel: France

Pere Noel saved three children from a butcher who kidnapped them. Pere Noel leaves gifts if the children have been good, or, traditionally, the bad kids will be spanked by the butcher, Le Pere Fouettard.