Tag: traditions
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

How to Survive Christmas
December 17, 2013  |  Written by Carlota Nelson

Christmas is right around the corner. The time of year when everyone is happy, singing Christmas carols and decorating the tree, buying or making gifts and cooking together. That’s the idea anyway. But for the vast majority, these holidays produce anxiety, impatience and stress. Feeling this way already?  Don’t worry, it’s normal. That’s why we’ve created a list of tips so you can survive the Christmas season and more importantly, make it memorable for the little ones at home.

Before we begin, close your eyes, take a deep breath and try to relax even if it’s for a few minutes. Think positive and try to remember your Christmas holidays when you were a child. What made you happy? What was your favorite thing to do? What are your best Christmas memories and what would you like your children to remember from this year? With that in mind, take your pen and paper and start planning your Christmas, always according to the time and budget you have available.

Expectations vs. Reality – during this time of year, expectations are on the rise, for children especially so try not promising things you can’t do. Ask them what they want to do. It might be easier than you expected. As a parent, you must be realistic and explain what of all that is possible. Also, share what you’d like to do this Christmas season so you can make a list of activities together and mark them in a calendar, accessible to all.

Creating traditions – when you recalled your favorite Christmas memories as a child, surely you thought of the things you did with your family such as helping to decorate the tree, cooking together, writing to Santa Claus, having friends over… Share these memories with your children and incorporate them into your family traditions and motivate them to create new ones. Remember to be open to suggestions!


Delegate – Learn to delegate. This way, you’ll have the help you need and your children will be entertained and feel useful. Don’t just tell them what to do. Get them involved and help you think of what needs to be done. Again, be open to suggestions. How are we going to decorate the tree this year? When our guests arrive, what can we offer them to drink or eat? Where will we place their coats? How are we going to decorate and set the table? What can we cook together? Remember, make it fun and thank them for their help, especially in front of your guests.

New Routines – School’s out and the routines that go with have practically disappeared. However, it’s important to maintain schedules so children get the rest they need and deal with the hyperactivity that comes along with the holidays. Create new routines starting with teaching them how to make their beds and help out at home before playtime. Make sure they get their exercise by playing in the park with their friends, running errands with you, enrolling them in a dance class or organizing and taking turns with our parents for play dates.

Don’t leave it for later – If you already have your list of gifts, go out and buy them. You did that already? Well, don’t leave the wrapping for the last minute. Doing things fast and furious increases our stress level and the probability of mistakes. As soon as you have your list of things to do, the better.

Special Guests – surely you know someone who, for one reason or another, will not spend Christmas with their family. Invite them to spend a morning or afternoon at your house and why not invite them for Christmas dinner or New Years? Aside from making them happy, you’ll be teaching your children the real Christmas spirit of sharing and offering the best gift of all: your time and love.

Photo Credits: Luz Adriana Villa

Photo Credits: Scappingmoka