Spirits of Giving from Around the World
Photos of Santa from 16 countries around the world, including Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Le Befana, Pere Noel, Christmas Old Man and many more. From the Spirits of Giving from Around the World Exhibit in the PPG Wintergarden in Pittsburgh, PA.
The American Santa Claus was first introduced into the United States by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who called him Kris Kringle or "Chriskind."
Grandfather Frost, often seen winter furs or bishop's robes, travels throughout Russia, bringing gifts on the non-religious holiday of New Year's.
Hospodar - Ukraine
Christmas Eve in the Ukranian tradition is celebrated on January 6 with a family feast called "Sviata Vechera" or Holy Supper.
As part of the celebration, a special shaft of wheat tied with a Rushnyk (ritual towel) is carried into the home by the head of the household (Hospodar) and put in a place of honor in the corner of the room as a decoration, symbolic of the after-life and the gathering together of the family at this special time of year.
The Caribbean is represented by a figure of a Haitian woman carrying a baby and bearing a basket of gifts of fruit and tropical delicacies to a local festival.
Christmas is the holiday when the Haitian woman dresses in her most opulent, colorful finery.
On Epiphany Eve (January 5), the spirit of Le Befana, arrives down Italian chimneys bearing gifts and firewood.
Le Befana typically carries a hand bell to announce her presence and waves a cane as a warning to bad children - who will only receive a lump of coal.
St. Nicholas - The Netherlands
Wearing traditional bishop's robes, Sinterklaas or St. Nicholas, rides into towns across Holland on a white horse where he is typically greeted with a parade.
Each year, Dutch television broadcasts the official arrival of St. Nicholas live to the nation. The children of Holland look forward with excitement to his arrival on the evening of December 5, putting out carrots and hay for his horse. In return they receive gifts, candies, cookies, fruit and nuts. The children sometimes get letters from St. Nick filled with clver poetry.
Christmas Old Man
China's Christmas Old Man arrives during the Holy Birth Festival (Sheng Dan Jieh), a Christmas holiday celebrated by the small number of Chinese Christians.
On Christmas Eve, the Christian children in China hang up specially made stockings for Dun Che Lao Ren, or "Christmas Old Man," to fill with gifts from the wicker basket he carries. He is sometimes also referred to as Lan Khoong-Khoong, "Nice Old Father."
Pere Noel - Père Noël
Pere Noel was the bearer of "luxuries" for French peasants in the Middle Ages. His gifts were left in wooden shoes set out by the children.
Pere Noel, the French equivalent of the American Santa Claus, appears in a long red hooded robe edged with white fur. He carries gifts for the children of France in a basket or hote on his back. His mean-spirited alter-ego, Pere Fouchette, left only switches for bad boys and girls.
Holy Man - Middle East
Christmas in the Middle East is a mingling of ancient and modern, represented here by the ancient king or Holy Man. The gifts he bears are a modern tradition.
England's Father Christmas travels from home to home on a goat or white donkey laden with treasures. Traditionally, one gift is a Yule log for the fireplace.
Star Man - Poland
Star Man visits all Polish homes after Christmas Eve supper, bringing small gifts and cookies to the children.
St Nicholas - Germany
On December 5, the German holiday season begins with the celebration of Saint Nicholas.
In some parts of Germany Nikolaus, or St. Nicholas, has come to look more like Santa and Father Christmas and comes at Christmas, not St. Nicholas Day. More traditionally, however, St. Nicholas leaves gifts in the shoes of German children on December 5, or St. Nicholas Eve.
Julesvenn - Norway
Julesvenn, the "gift bringer" of Norse mythology, comes during the mid-winter festivities of "Jul" to hide lucky barley stalks around the house.
In the fantasy version of Julesvenn, pictured here, he wears candles which are traditionally used in Scandinavian winter festivals.
Old Man Christmas - Viejo Pascero
Old Man Christmas or "Viejo Pascero" is a central figure in the Latin American Christmas celebration.
Holiday treats include pinatas full of gifts, poinsettias, roosters and chickens.
St. Stephen - Ireland
The missionary St. Stephen is honored on December 26 for his good deeds. Irish boys go door to door singing for pennies, carrying symbolic wrens made of straw.
Contemporary American Santa Claus
On Christmas Eve, the modern American Santa Claus climbs down chimneys, bringing his bounty to boys and girls everywhere.
Somewhere in the North Pole, in his winter wonderland workshop, Santa Claus dons his apron and begins to create his special Christmas magic.