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Grandfather Frost and the Broom Witch: 5 Quirky Christmas Characters From Around the World


He’s the bushy-bearded, jolly-faced man we’ve been looking forward to seeing every Christmas since the 1900s, but Santa Claus isn’t the only fella doing the rounds this yuletide. All over the world, children are waiting for their own version of Father Christmas, some of which are more than a bit different to the red-jacket-wearing guy we know. Here are some of the most unusual Christmas characters getting the world into the festive spirit. 

1. Krampus — Austria, Germany, Hungary

If you were scared of visiting Father Christmas as a child, spare a thought for the little ones of Austria, Germany, and Hungary who’ve grown up with the tale of Krampus, a terrifying, anti-Santa creature.

Appearing as a “half goat, half demon,” Krampus is the one who punishes the naugthy children while Santa takes charge of rewarding the good children. He announces he’s coming with the sound of clanking chains before gifting naughty children with coal instead of presents (so that’s where our parents got that idea from!).

Amazingly, old Krampus has his own celebration known as Krampusnacht, when he appears in the streets and visits the homes of mischievous children.

2. Ded Moroz — Russia

Translated to “Grandfather Frost,” the Russian Ded Moroz is different from Santa in that he delivers the presents to the children himself, instead of leaving them under the Christmas tree in the middle of the night.

Much like Sinterklaas, Ded Moroz has a helper, his lovely granddaughter Snegurochka — which roughly translates to Snow Girl. The two of them spread Christmas cheer and presents, working against Baba Yaga, the evil witch who hates children and steals their Christmas presents.  

3. La Befana — Italy

Girl power strikes again in Italy with Befana, a kind-hearted witch who gets to work delivering presents to the well-behaved children and coal to the ones who were naughty.

She travels on a broomstick and delivers her gifts in the middle of the night. It’s also thought that Befana sweeps the floor of the house before she leaves, clearing all the negativity of the past year. She wears a black shawl and is covered in soot from traveling down the chimneys, at the bottom of which a small glass of wine and some food are left for her by the families.

4. Jolasveinar — Iceland

Also known as Yule Lads, the Icelandic folklore has a staggering 13 Santa-like characters. Believed to be the sons of the mountain trolls, the Yule Lads were originally rather mischievous, stealing from homes, disturbing farm animals, and generally pulling pranks on adults and children. However, modern depictions show them as more Santa-like, as they deliver presents to the good kids and potatoes in the shoes of the naughty ones. They are sometimes accompanied by the Yule Cat, a terrifying animal who eats children if it isn’t given an offering of new clothes.

5. Hoteiosho — Japan

Hoteiosho is Japan’s festive gift-giver. He is believed to be a rather fat Buddhist monk who has eyes on the back of his head and who is occasionally thought to travel with a red-nosed reindeer, like good old Rudolph.

However, he doesn’t deliver his gifts on Christmas Day, which the Japanese children dedicate to doing good deeds and charity work. Instead, he delivers presents on New Year’s Eve, when the family is all together and after they throw beans, which is thought to bring good luck.  

This article was originally written by Yours editors. For more, check out our sister site, Yours.

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