10 different names for Santa Claus around the world
Published on December 1, 2020 / Updated on November 7, 2022
What do you call that old guy who brings gifts every year? Is Father Christmas? St. Nicholas? Joulupukki? Not only does Santa Claus go by many names around the globe, but he also brings a variety of different traditions!
Papai Noel – sometimes called Bom Velhinho, which means “good old man” – comes from the North Pole to Brazil on Christmas Eve. Children leave their shoes out so Papai Noel can fill them with treats. He also hides presents around the house!
Because it’s so hot in Brazil, some people say Papai Noel wears silk to keep cool; others insist he’s dressed in red and white robes.
Turkey’s version of Santa is called Noel Baba. Being a Muslim country, they don’t really celebrate Christmas, so things are done a little differently. Noel Baba comes to Turkey on New Year’s Eve – rather than Christmas – to hand out gifts to children.
In China, Santa is called Dun Che Lao Ren, which means “Christmas old man.” Not everyone in the country celebrates Christmas, or Sheng Dan Jieh. However, those who do celebrate by hanging up stockings for Dun Che Lao Ren to fill with treats.
It’s also common to see Dun Che Lao Ren in marketplaces and shopping malls where kids get their photos taken with him.
Finland’s Christmas figure is called Joulupukki, which translates to . . . well, “Christmas goat.” In the past, Joulupukki was a scary character with a mask and horns. These days, however, Pukki, as he’s nicknamed, is less frightening.
Pukki comes from Lapland and is pulled by reindeer (but they don’t fly). He brings gifts to families’ homes on Christmas Eve, and children sometimes sing Christmas carols for him.
In most parts of Germany, Santa is known as Weihnachtsmann, literally meaning “Christmas man.” He looks very similar to the North American Santa Claus. There’s a major difference, though: Weihnachtsmann doesn’t come down the chimney.
On Christmas Eve, Weihnachtsmann shows up with a helper called Christkind. This female angel has blonde hair and wings, and she’s the one who brings gifts to families! Christkind also takes photos with children at shopping centres and receives letters with kids’ Christmas wishes.
This Hawaiian Santa Claus might be the coolest one of all! Known as Kanakaloka, you can sometimes find him in the typical red fur outfit – but other times, he might be wearing a Hawaiian shirt and surf shorts! Kanakaloka has reindeer called Leinekia. He comes to Hawaii not on a sleigh, but in a red outrigger canoe.
In Hungary, Santa Claus is called Mikulás, which means “St. Nicholas.” Although Hungarians celebrate Christmas on 24 December, Mikulás comes on 6 December, which is St. Nicholas Day.
Children leave a polished boot at the window before they go to bed on 5 December. If they’ve been good, their boots get filled with treats and small toys. Children who haven’t behaved that year may still get some treats, but they also receive dried twigs, called virgács, as a warning!
Even though Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in Japan, they still have a kind, gift-giving figure: An old Buddhist monk named Hoteiosho!
Hoteiosho has a big belly and carries a large bag filled with toys for children. Some people say Hoteiosho has eyes in the back of his head so he can watch children to make sure they’re behaving.
Russia’s version of Santa Claus, who lives deep in a pine forest, is called Ded Moroz, meaning “grandfather frost.” He wears a blue or red costume that’s often decorated with beautiful designs.
Instead of Christmas, Ded Moroz brings gifts to good children on New Year’s Eve – but he doesn’t come alone! He’s usually with his granddaughter, Snegurochka, on a sleigh pulled by horses.
In Sweden, excited children look forward to a Christmas Eve visit from Jultomten (“Christmas elf”). This generous figure looks very similar to your typical Santa Claus and hides gifts for kids around their homes.
In some households, a family member dresses up as Jultomten to distribute gifts in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. This often happens at 3 pm, during the country’s annual broadcast of a series of Donald Duck cartoons. The disguised family member will ask, “Are there any good children here?” before they distribute gifts.