Christmas Around The World

Spot the Difference!

So, the trees are twinkling, Hampton Hill, Twickenham and Teddington have had their lighting up festivities.  We’re all more than ready to sing, dance and be merry.

However, Christmas means something different to each and every one of us.  Shaped by familial, local and national traditions.  You could argue that no two Christmases are ever the same.

The most obvious differences stem from whether or not you see December 25th as a religious occasion or a time to gather and give to others.

All across the world countries celebrate this holiday, in very different ways.  The concept of Father Christmas varies throughout.  I have picked out a few of the most interesting…


In America and Canada, Father Christmas is sometimes referred to as Kris Kringle.  Children leave out cookies and milk to help him refuel for his long journey.


In France, children are visited by Pierre or Papa Noel who delivers presents on the evening of the 23rd of December or the morning of the 25th.  However, in the far North and Eastern regions, he is accompanied by Le Pere Fouettard (Old Man Whipper) who is dressed all in black and may deliver lumps of coal and possibly beatings/ whippings to naughty children!  Now that’s what you call an incentive to be good!


Babbo Natale is said to visit children in Italy on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

On the 5th of January he is followed by the witch, La Befana.  She comes during the night to put sweets, snacks and dried fruit into the socks of well-behaved children.

La Befana


The Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January, with presents being exchanged earlier on New Years Eve.  Children believe that Ded Moroz delivers gifts with his granddaughter, Snegurka, but only when they are summoned by children sitting in a circle around the Christmas tree.  When the visitors arrive, the star and other decorations light up on the tree!


Tomte or Jultomten is a creature drawn from Swedish folklore.  Originally a gnome-like figure, he would guard farm houses against bad luck.  The modern translation sees adults dressing up as Jultomten, complete with mask and asking if there are any well-behaved children in the house who deserve presents.

The Netherlands:

Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, resembles St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children and the inspiration for our representation of Father Christmas.

Sinterklaas rides into town on a white horse, brandishing a jewelled staff and handing out gifts.  He is accompanied by Grumpus who rattles chains and threatens to kidnap naughty children.  How terrifying!


Historically, the more traditional Yule Goat was actually a benevolent spirit who would knock on doors and demand gifts from occupants!  Thankfully, Joulupukki has somewhat softened over the years and now delivers the presents instead, with the help of his reindeer who can walk but not fly.


The Yule Lads are 13 mischievous elves who like to play tricks on children and wreak havoc for the particularly naughty ones!  In the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, Icelandic children place their shoes on window sills in the hope that the elves may leave them gifts or sweets.  Naughty children will only receive rotten potatoes in theirs!

To learn more about this fascinating topic, click here:

So, we better get back to our Christmas chores and make sure you behave or Grumpus might come to get you!

Sarah Watson, Dramacube