Saying the name Santa Claus conjures an image of a jolly, generous man who delivers gifts to good girls and boys. The spirit of Santa Claus may be close to universal, though the details vary a bit in some places, and the name isn’t the same everywhere. There are a number of other names for Santa Claus, including many Santa Claus names in different languages. Discover 20 names for Santa Claus around the world.
20 Other Names for Santa Claus Around the World
Agios Vasilios (Greece)
Agios Vasilios, also known as Saint Basil, visits homes in Greece to welcome in each new year. Rather than visiting homes in December, Agios Vasilios visits homes on New Year’s Day, which is known as the Feast of Saint Basil. Families traditionally set a place for Agios Vasilios to join them for their New Year’s meal. The real-life Saint Basil was known for helping the poor, so families also make charitable donations in his memory.
Babbo Natale (Italy)
Translated as Daddy Christmas, Babbo Natale is the Italian name for Santa Claus. Per Italian Christmas tradition, Babbo Natale visits homes on Christmas Eve to leave presents, but he is not the only giver of secret gifts associated with the Christmas season in that country. On January 5, which is the night before the Epiphany, La Befana, who is known as the good Christmas witch, is said to ride her broom to homes throughout Italy, bringing gifts to children.
Dun Che Lao Ren (China)
Dun Che Lao Ren is the primary name used for Santa Claus in Chinese Christmas traditions. This name translates into old Christmas man. Children hang stockings made of muslin for Dun Che Lao Ren to fill with presents. Alternately, some people in China refer to Santa as Lan Khoong-Khoong, which means nice old father.
Ded Moroz (Russia)
The Russian equivalent of Santa Claus is Ded Moroz, which translates to English as grandfather frost. Ded Moroz carries a staff and is accompanied by horses instead of reindeer. He most commonly appears in a blue robe lined in fur, though he is sometimes shown in a red or metallic robe. He makes his gift-giving rounds on New Year’s Eve via a troika instead of a sleigh.
Father Christmas (England)
The name Father Christmas is commonly used in England and the rest of the United Kingdom (UK). Father Christmas visits on Christmas Eve, bringing presents and filling stockings. It’s tradition for UK families to leave Father Christmas a mince pie to snack on along with some whiskey to drink.
In Japan, Hoteiosho is one of the names given to their equivalent of Santa Claus. The other is Santa Kurohsu. Hoteiosho is depicted as a Buddhist monk who behaves in many ways like Santa Claus, especially in that he has a big belly and goes from house to house leaving toys for children. Japanese folklore says Hoteiosho and Santa Kurohsu have eyes in the back of their heads so they can see clearly how children are behaving.
Jólasveinar is the group name for the 13 Santa-like figures in Iceland. Referred to as the Christmas boys or Yule lads, these gents share the responsibility of visiting homes throughout Iceland over the 13 days that precede Christmas, leaving behind secret gifts for well-behaved children in each home.The Jólasveinar are trolls, so they also engage in mischief.
In Finland, Santa Claus goes by the name Joulupukki, which translates to Christmas goat, Christmas buck or billy goat. Joulupukki visits homes to distribute presents to children, but doesn’t do it in secret. Instead, Joulupukki knocks on the front door or rings the doorbell to signal his arrival. Families often serenade him with Christmas carols. He travels by a reindeer-pulled sleigh, but his reindeer don’t fly.
In Norway, Santa Claus is called Julenissen. Scandanavian folklore includes nisse or julenisse, which are small gnome-like creatures that are sometimes described as hobgoblins or spirits. They are mischievous, yet benevolent and are said to bring luck and prosperity as long as the families they visit keep them happy. They are said to bring special gifts to children throughout Norway at Christmastime. This tradition led to Santa Claus being named Julenissen in Norway.
Kanakaloka is the Hawaiian language word for Santa Claus. Hawaii isn’t the best place to travel by sleigh wearing a heavy fur suit, so Kanakaloka does things a bit differently than Santa Claus. He travels via a canoe with outriggers rather than in a sleigh. While he is sometimes depicted in traditional Santa red, he is often outfitted in a Hawaiian shirt paired with shorts.
Noel Baba (Turkey)
While Turkey is a Muslim country where Christmas is not celebrated, there is still a Santa Claus equivalent there. After all Antalya, Turkey is where the real Saint Nicholas was born and lived his life. While Christmas is not observed in Turkey, New Year’s Eve is a big holiday celebration there. That’s when Noel Baba visits, bearing gifts he carries in a sack. Noel Baba is sometimes depicted in a sleigh and sometimes on a raft. He wears a red suit, though it's scaled back to account for the Turkish climate.
Pai Natal (Portugal)
In Portugal, Santa Claus is called Pai Noel. The story of Pai Noel closely follows other Santa Claus traditions, with Pai Noel making a furtive visit to homes on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to children once they are soundly sleeping. These gifts are left beneath the family’s Christmas tree or in shoes that children leave out for him to find. However, some in Portugal say that it’s actually the Baby Jesus who leaves gifts for the kids.
Papá Noel (Spain)
In Spain, Papá Noel travels the country on Nochebuena (December 24), leaving gifts for children in the overnight hours. Children awaken on Christmas Day to those presents after enjoying a large Christmas meal with family members the evening before. Other than presents left by Papá Noel, though, other gift-giving waits until the Epiphany, which is January 6.
Papai Noel (Brazil)
In Brazil, Santa Claus is usually referred to as Papai Noel, though the name Bom Velhinho, which translates from Portugese into English as good old man, is sometimes used. Due to the climate in Brazil, most homes do not have fireplaces, so Papai Noel doesn’t come in via a chimney. Children in Brazil hang socks near a window for Papai Noel to fill when he visits after they go to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Père Noël (France)
In France, Santa Claus is called Père Noël, He is typically depicted in a white fur cloak with an attached hood, which he typically wears pulled up over his head. He travels by reindeer-pulled sleigh and visits homes to secretly leave presents for children. He doesn’t fill stockings, but rather places goodies in children’s slippers or shoes, which they leave out for him before going to bed on Christmas Eve. Rather than leaving milk for Santa to drink, French children are likely to pour him a glass of wine.
Saint Nikolaus (Austria)
In Austria, Saint Nikolaus visits homes to bring gifts on December 5, which is the night before Nikolaustag, (Saint Nikolaus' Day). He behaves very much like Santa Claus, but is named for the real-life bishop of the same name who died during the 4th Century. The name Saint Nikolaus, or Saint Nicholas, is used in other countries as well, including many Germanic nations and English-speaking countries.
In Switzerland, Santa Claus goes by the name Samichlaus. As with Austria’s Saint Nikolaus, December 5 is the day Samichlaus spreads happiness (in the form of gifts) to children throughout the country. Rather than being helped by elves, his assistants are referred to as schmutzli. He doesn’t have flying reindeer, but instead travels primarily by foot.
Based on Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas is the name for Santa Claus used throughout the Netherlands. As with other countries where traditions surrounding Santa are linked to Saint Nicholas, his visit occurs on December 5, the evening before the Feast of Saint Nicholas. Children place their shoes in front of the fireplace, as Sinterklaas is prone to leaving small gifts or candy treats inside of shoes.
Święty Mikołaj (Poland)
Based on Saint Nicholas, Święty Mikołaj is the primary Polish equivalent of Santa Claus. Children wake up on December 6 to find a small gift from Święty Mikołaj signaling the start of the Christmas season. The majority of gift giving, however, is reserved for Christmas day. In some areas of Sweden, Poznań (which means star man) is the one who brings gifts to children.
In Germany, there are several names for Santa Claus. The oldest one that is the most similar to the way the jolly holiday gift-giver is portrayed in other parts of the world is der Weihnachtsmann, which is the German equivalent of Father Christmas or Christmas man. Other German names for Santa Claus include Nickel, Klaus, and Niglo.
Many Names for Santa
Just as there are many Christmas customs around the world, there are also Santa Claus names in different languages. These are just 20 of the many names for Santa Claus and the spirit of giving he embodies. Traditions and the exact date of his visit may vary, but there are some commonalities to the story of Santa Claus no matter what name is used. To learn more about Christmas terminology in other languages, explore more Christmas words in Spanish.