Santa Claus Around the World
Happy Santa Claus opening his Christmas gift at North Pole

The idea of Santa Claus can change greatly throughout the world.

Whether you live in Australia, Hungary, Brazil or Canada, the tradition of gifts during the holiday season is loved by everyone. Children and adults all love giving and receiving brightly wrapped presents. The character that brings those gifts might be Santa Claus here in North America, but he isn’t necessarily known by that name in other countries.

  • France and Belgium – Pere Noel
  • Brazil – Papai Noel
  • Italy – Babbo Natale
  • United Kingdom – Father Christmas
  • Sweden – Jultomten (Christmas Brownie)
  • Russia – Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost)
  • Hawaii – Kanakaloka
  • Turkey – Noel Baba

Saint Nicholas, who is considered to be the original Santa Claus, was born in a Turkish town during the third century. He was a devout Christian. His family died in an epidemic when Nicholas was quite young, but they left him a great deal of wealth. He used his inheritance to benefit the needy and the sick. He became known for his generosity, his love of children and his concern for ships and sailors. Nicholas was made a bishop in the church.

Nicholas was persecuted for his faith, as were many Christians in this time period. He was imprisoned for a while because he was a bishop in the church. However, we do know that he attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. This was the first Ecumenical Church Council, which was called to preserve the church. He died on December 6, 343 AD (December 19 on the Julian Calendar), and this date is now celebrated in his honor.

The custom of leaving gifts in the stockings or shoes is from a legend about Saint Nicholas saving three young girls who didn’t have a dowry. The family was poor, and the father didn’t have anything to offer prospective husbands for his daughters. It was possible that the girls would be sold into slavery, but three different times, a bag of gold was tossed into the family’s window and said to have landed in a shoe in front of the fire. The daughters were saved. Children began leaving stockings and shoes out and waiting for gifts from Saint Nicholas.

Thousands of churches are named for St. Nicholas. He is the patron saint of sailors. When Nicholas died, it’s said that manna formed in his grave. It was a liquid substance, believed to have healing powers. This magnified his legend. Both Protestants and Catholics celebrate his memory. He is a model of generosity and compassion.

Celebrating Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas, or “Sinnterklaas” as he is known in Dutch, came to North America as Europeans settled in the new land. Traditions became mixed up with so many cultural influences. Gift-giving is associated with Saint Nicholas and the Three Wise Men, or Magi. It was German and Scandinavian influences that favored celebrating December 24 as the holiday.

Traditionally, children hang stockings by a chimney, but in Brazil, where homes may not have chimneys, it’s common for shoes to be left outside to be filled with sweets. In Italy, La Befana, a Pagan character who arrives during the Christmas season, brings sweets and dried fruit to those children she deems good. All others get a lump of coal as a sign of her displeasure with their behavior.

Ded Moroz and his granddaughter Sengurochka (Snow Girl) come to the territories of Eastern Europe on a sleigh drawn by three horses. Ded Moroz rewards the honest and hardworking people with gifts and sweets. He punishes the ones who are lazy and immoral.

Take some time this holiday season to learn more about different customs around the world. It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule or Kwanza. We all need to understand how our neighbors celebrate to appreciate diversity.

FAQs About Wedding Gift-Giving
Some parties or weddings will have a table set aside for you to drop your wedding gift off at.

Make sure that you place your wedding gift with the others.

The traditional summer wedding might be over, but ceremonies happen all year long. Many guests don’t know what’s expected from them when giving a wedding gift. Here are some etiquette tips to help you make good decisions about giving a present to the couple when you’re invited to the party.

What Should I Buy?

The wedding registry is the best resource for choosing a gift. The couple may have a wedding website with some special notes about wanting to save up for a larger purchase. You should consult the registry to make sure you match the couple’s style and personality. If you’re making a handmade gift, you can find color ideas and patterns on the registry to know what the bride prefers. 

How Much Should I Spend?

There are a number of thoughts about how much to spend on gifts. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t need to spend the same amount on a coworker or distant relative as you would on a close relative or friend. According to, the average wedding gift costs $106. That figure will vary depending on your budget, the relationship you have with the couple and how much you’re spending to get to the wedding. Traditionally, you don’t need to spend as much on the gift when it’s a destination wedding or if you’re coming from a long distance.

When Should I Send the Wedding Gift?

Although many people still bring gifts to the wedding, this is often very difficult for the bride and groom to manage. These gifts may have to be transported to different places, and if the couple is leaving directly from the reception for the airport, it will be complicated for the family. Plus, there are more opportunities for money and small gifts to be stolen at a reception. It’s best to send it to the home of either the bride or the groom before the ceremony or up to three months following the wedding.

If I’m Bringing a Gift to the Wedding, Do I Have to Buy One for the Shower, Too?

A shower is a party to bless the bride (or couple) with gifts. It is the one party that is all about the gift-giving. Set your gift budget when you get the wedding invitation. If you get an invitation to a shower, use the 20 percent rule. Dedicate 20 percent of your budget to the shower gift. If you get invited to more than one shower, take another 20 percent out of the original budget for the gift. Whatever is left, use it to buy the wedding gift. For example, you set a budget of $200. You’re invited to a bridal shower and an engagement party. Twenty (20) percent of 200 is $40. Spend $40 on a gift for the engagement party, then another $40 for the shower. This leaves $120 for the wedding gift. But feel free to use those limits as you choose.

One final thought: You should not stretch your budget too far to give what might be expected. The wedding is not about gifts and money; it’s about celebrating the union of two people. If your finances won’t let you give a large gift, do what you can. A gift certificate to a local restaurant would be a nice treat for the couple when they get back from the honeymoon. Picture frames are always welcome and can be expensive when you want to buy a lot. Treat the bride to a couple of special ones. Maybe on the couple’s first anniversary, your budget will allow you to do something more. The wedding should be a celebration, not a gift-grabbing event. If the couple knows and loves you, they will understand your limitations.