Think you know St Nick? Think again! The cuddly fellow with the snowy white beard and bright red suit who we think of as Santa Claus is a relatively recent invention, attributed to a Coca Cola advert illustration from the 1930s.
Inspired by St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Turkish Archbishop who left coins in the chimneys of households in need, our version of Father Christmas is unrecognisable to children around the world, where he takes many different forms…
Russia: Ded Moroz
A Slavic character similar to that of Father Christmas, Ded Moroz translates as Old Man Frost or Grandfather Frost. Bringing presents to children on New Year’s Eve, he wears a long fur coat, white beard and magical walking staff. He is assisted by his granddaughter Snegurochka who wears long silver-blue robes and a snowflake crown.
France: Père Noël
Sometimes called Papa Noël, Father Christmas in France and other French-speaking territories leaves presents in children’s shoes in return for carrots and snacks for his donkey, Gui, which means mistletoe.
Closely resembling the red-coated Santa of the UK, Norway’s Julenissen translates as Christmas Gnome. Inspired by ‘Necklets Day’, the start of a series of December ceremonies in the pagan cultures of Northern Scandinavia, the origin of modern day Santa Claus has been attributed to the Norse God Odin.
China: Dun Che Lao Ren
Translating as Christmas Old Man, children hang muslin stockings for Dun Che Lao Ren, dressed in red, to fill with gifts. Chinese Christmas trees are called ‘Trees of Light’.
Before the Christmas traditions of today, Hawaii celebrated a festival named Makahiki, where all wars were banned and which promoted peace and good will. Kanakaloka wears flowery Hawaiian clothes. “Mele Kalikimaka” means Merry Christmas in Hawaiian.