Christmas Traditions Around the World: 6 Legendary Christmas Couriers

Speaking of Christmas traditions, have you ever used the NORAD Santa tracker?

It is a virtual world map showing Santa’s travel on Christmas Eve, across oceans and time zones, delivering thousands of presents a second. It’s a little bit techy, but it’s also a great way to get impatient kids to bed.

‘Look! Santa’s nearly reached the UK and if you aren’t asleep, he can’t get in!’

Whether you are a fan of a modern-day Christmas or not, it’s difficult to deny that the stories and folklore surrounding the winter festivities are fascinating.

For our Christmas blog, we decided to check out some festive couriers of Christmas traditions from centuries past. Some of them are still recognisable in modern celebration, others have been left behind. It would seem, however, that even the scariest haven’t been forgotten just yet.

 

christmas couriers

 

Saint Nicholas

 

Thought to be one of the principal influences behind Santa Claus himself, Saint Nicholas appears to reference Nicholas of Myra, a saint and bishop who used to leave gold coins in shoes which were left outside. He lived in modern day Turkey in around 300AD.

 

Krampus

 

This European horror character has experienced a resurgence of popularity of late, starring in a feature film. However, Krampus has been on the prowl for a long time. The myth of a part-goat, part man figure may date to pre-Germanic times, and be a pagan version of the son of the Norse goddess, Hel.

He is the evil antithesis of Santa, existing to scare children and adults alike (and maybe eat a few of the really bad ones). Krampus still visits mountain towns in Austria and also has processions on December 5th as far afield as Orlando, Florida.

 

Hoteiosho

 

Japan is not a Christian country, but Christmas is celebrated in a similar way to in the west. It appears to have been adopted as an extra holiday and an excellent excuse to get together with family and celebrate.

Hoteiosho is a portly figure from Buddhism, with a friendly demeanour. However, he does also have eyes in the back of his head, so children should watch their behaviour when he’s around. He also carries a sack, not unlike Santa Claus.

 

La Befana

 

This elderly Italian lady visits on the eve of Epiphany, searching, as the story goes, for the baby Jesus. According to folklore, she extended her hospitality to the three wise men on their way to Bethlehem. She was invited to join on their quest, but declined due to having too much work to do.

She then changed her mind and set out to meet this new King, but didn’t arrive on time to join the story as it is still told today. She leaves gifts for good children, and coal for the bad ones, and supposedly enjoys a glass of wine for her troubles.

 

Jultomten

 

This wee Scandinavian elf puts in an earlier shift than Santa, visiting Swedish children in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. He dresses in red and has a long white beard, but is certainly not the same as Santa Claus, according to the Swedes!

 

Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz)

 

This Slavic figure has a long white beard, but often dresses in blue and in the robes of a Russian nobleman, pre-Western influence. He may give gifts, but he is an old pagan god, rather than a version of Santa.

He makes his deliveries in a sleigh pulled by three horses, and was once a powerful and terrible god, married to Winter, with a daughter made of snow.


We hope you enjoyed reading this wee guide to wintery couriers! If you need a last minute Christmas delivery, we are less scary than Krampus and can usually get the job done a wee bit earlier than the eternally late Befana. Get in touch here.

Have a lovely Christmas!