Tag: Santa Claus
Where do Christmas letters go? Santa Claus vs. The Three Kings
December 19, 2013  |  Written by Carlota Nelson

Juegorama (in Spanish) research shows that 81% of children en Spain prefer the Three Kings to Santa. Although gifts are delivered on both the 25th and the beginning of the year,  the important presents are open on January 5th. What do you celebrate at home and whom do you speak to your children about? Santa or The Three Kings?

To demystify and help you teach your children the difference between both, we wanted to share their stories. Santa Claus vs. The Three Kings. While the choice is entirely personal and bi-cultural families celebrate both, the debate remains open.

Much before Santa Claus existed, there were many legends that told the story of characters that delivered gifts on Christmas day. Back in the year 280, Nicolas de Bari, shared his own personal wealth among the poor and in ancient Rome, children received their gifts from a fairy named Befana, who still visits Italian houses every Christmas.

 In Spain alone, there are several characters similar to Santa Claus. In Navarra and the Basque Country, for example, there exists a mythological coalman named Olentzero, who delivers gifts on Christmas day. In Cantabria, it’ Esteru, a woodcutter who leaves his gifts on the same day. In Cataluña, it’s Uncle Nadal and in Galicia, the character of the Apalpador is once again gaining notoriety.

From Saint Nick to Santa Claus. It is believed that the Dutch immigrants were the ones who brought the myth of Saint Nick to New York, when they founded the city. During the mid 19th century, Santa Claus returned to Europe where he blended in with Bonhomme Noel.

But who is Santa Claus and why is he accused of being a commercial product?  According to Western society, this character  lives in the North Pole, surrounded by elves and reindeer, is the one who delivers gifts on the night of the 24th of December. His detractors say it was Coca-cola who remodeled  him, by dressing him up in red (the colors of Coca-Cola) and fattening him up to make him more human like.


However, there are many illustrations before this time, that describe a man dressed in red that also delivered gifts to children on Christmas Eve, transported by a sleigh, pulled by nine reindeers. While each culture chooses it’s own character with which to celebrate Christmas, don’t forget that the Santa Claus myth has been created by many al around the world.

In Spain and in several Latin American countries, The Three Kings day is celebrated on January 6th.  The Three Kings are linked to the birth of Jesus. According to the gospel, Virgin Mary received the visit of several Magi (magicians) that came to deliver gifts in the form of gold, incense and myrrh. But, like Santa Claus, the Three Kings have also suffered some transformation. They say they weren’t always three and that Balthazar was white until the 16th century.

According to the catholic religion, these Magi were representatives of pagan religions and little by little, people have added traditions such as leaving something for them to eat, writing letters, eating the Roscón de Reyes (a sweet brioche), going to the Three Kings Day Parade…

Whatever tradition your family chooses, the important thing to remember and remind our children is that this is a magical time of year in which one receives and delivers gifts, love, support and help for the less fortunate.

Photo Credits: Andy Noren

Photo Credits: USACE Europe District