(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

Santa figures from around the world


Krampus, in central and eastern Alpine folklore, is hairy with cloven hooves, usually brown or black, and has horns of a goat adorning his head. His long, pointed tongue lolls out and usually he has fangs. His (somewhat traumatizing) appearance is probably because during the Christmas season, he scares children who have misbehaved.

He doesn’t strike terror into the fear of naughty children alone though — Saint Nicholas is said to accompany Krampus on his rounds on the night of Dec. 5.

Saint Nicholas rewards the good children with gifts but the bad children are terrorized or punished.

Père Noël

On Christmas Eve in France, children leave their shoes by the fireplace and they’re usually filled with carrots and treats for Père Noël’s donkey, Gui (French for “mistletoe”) before they go to bed.

During his visit, Père Noël takes the things left in the shoes and gives the well behaved children presents.


In Italian folklore, Befan is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (Jan. 5), the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany. She will fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good, or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. In some parts of Italy, typically poorer parts and in particular rural Sicily, a stick will be put in the stocking instead of coal.

Popular tradition tells that if one sees Befana they will get a a thump from her broomstick.

Befana, who is also said to be a great housekeeper and guest, will sweep the floor before she leaves. To some the sweeping meant she was sweeping away the problems of the year. Families typically leave a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food for the Befana.


Part of the folklore of the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald area of Baden-Württemberg, says Belsnickel is a crotchety, fur-clad figure who sometimes wears a mask with a long tongue.

He is said to carry a switch in his hand with which to beat naughty children and also pockets full of cakes, candies and

nuts for good children.