HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life: Santa Claus, Papa Noel, St. Nick & Los Reyes Magos

Segment 12 - Santa Claus, Papa Noel, St. Nick & Los Reyes Magos

During this time, one can say Happy Holidays, smile and spread happy blessings of joy and peace to virtually anyone they meet in the street. No matter where you are from, most people are cheerful and welcoming of one another with positivity, good spirits and joy.  Whether you are celebrating the period for religious reasons or for family quality time or simply commercial reasons, it is simply a wonderful time of the year.  The day after Christmas, as we were walking back from the store with fresh bread and freshly made King’s Cake, my daughter asked me a very deep question…  

Why does my friend, Maria, receive presents from the Three Kings, and we don’t?”  Ahh, the questions many expat kids living in Spain will eventually ask their parents, has finally arrived...

 I respond, “because she is Spanish and here they get presents from the Three Kings, we get presents from Santa Claus…” hoping that would quell her concerns. 

But she continued “Well, Maria says that she get presents from Papa Noel and the Three Kings, whereas we only get presents from Papa Noel.”  

Well, you get candy from the Three Kings, right? Remember last year at the parade, they threw out candy to you.

Yes, but Maria gets toys and candy” she explained very earnestly.  Note to self... talk to Maria’s parents.

Ok, well, I guess you could get presents from both too. But then you need to prepare…” I started my explanation. “What do you mean prepare?” she asked

Well, if you want presents from all 4 – Santa, and the Three Kings – then you will have to be really super good, make 4 separate lists, send them to each, and then get some presents on December 25th, then wait until theThree Kings day in January to get the rest.  Then you won’t have much time to play with those gifts because you’ll have to go back to school the next day.” I explained, hoping that she would accept my explanation, even though I really didn't explained the true meaning of the spirit of giving effectively... “Is that what you want?

No, I’m fine with just candy on the Three Kings Day”, she responded…end of story, safe for another year.

So instead of winning a parent of the year award for explaining the true meaning of Christmas and Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings), I was happy to move on.  But this dialogue reminded me of how different the holidays are celebrated and honored around the world.  Just two weeks ago, my daughter asked me about the difference between Father Christmas and Santa Claus… so I decided to check this whole thing out myself.

In my house, we prepare for Santa Claus, every year, we watch the classic movie – Santa Claus is Coming to Town, where they explain the origin of Santa, how his real name is Kris Kringle and he became Santa because he was adopted by elves who loved to make toys, which he gave to the little German children because they weren’t allowed to have them due to the mean old mayor who hated toys, except for yo-yo’s.  While that movie explains Santa Claus pretty well to a kid, it fails to discuss St. Nick, nor does it explain why some call the big gift-giving man Father Christmas or Papa Noel. Nor does it explain that in some cultures around the world, it’s not Santa at all, but the Three Kings or Dun Che Lao Ren ("Christmas Old Man" in China).  

So based on very barely scientific research is my list of the Top 8 versions of gift-giving do-gooder types spreading seasons’ greetings through the world:

8.  In parts of Germany, people believe that the Christ Child sends a messenger on Christmas Eve. He appears as an angel in a white robe and crown, bearing gifts. The angel is called Christkindl. There is also Weihnachtsmann or Christmas Man, who looks like Santa Claus and also brings gifts. During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the pre-Christian midwinter event of Yule. The modern figure of Santa Claus was derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which derived from the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift giver Saint Nicholas.  

7. The English gift giver is called Father Christmas. He wears a long red or green robe, and leaves presents in stockings on Christmas Eve.  Father Christmas dates back as far as 16th century in Britain during the reign of Henry VIII. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food and wine.  On Christmas Eve in France, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel or Papa Noel.  

6. The Chinese version of Santa Claus is called Dun Che Lao Ren which means "Christmas Old Man." The non-Christian Chinese call this season the Spring Festival, where they celebrate with festivities including delicious meals, and people paying respects to their ancestors. The children receive new clothes and toys, eat delicious food and watch firecrackers displays.

5. Most Japanese people decorate their homes with evergreen trees during Christmas. They have a Buddhist monk called Hotei-osho, who like Santa Claus, brings presents to each house for the children.  Christmas Day is spent doing nice things for others, especially those in hospitals.

4. Babushka is a traditional Christmas lady who distributes presents to children in Russia.  The legend claims that she declined to go with the Wise Men to see Jesus. However, she regretted not going and later set off trying and catch up, filling her basket with presents. She never found Jesus, and that is why she visits each house, leaving toys for good children.  The word ''Babushka'' is translated in English as a grand-mother.

3. The Spanish Christmas is Navidad. Children think of the Three Wise Man as the gift bearers in many Spanish speaking countries. Tradition has it that they arrive on January 6th, when the Wise Men gave gifts to Baby Jesus. It is believed that they travel through the countryside reenacting their journey to Bethlehem every year at this time. Their favorite is Balthazar who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave the gifts.

2. On December 26th many African Americans celebrate with Kwanzaa, a holiday that originated at the time of the civil rights movement in the 1960's to commemorate African heritage.  Kwanzaa lasts for a week, alowing family and friends to gather, exchange gifts and light a series of black, red and green candles which symbolize the values of the African American family life.  New Years Eve is the night for the giving of gifts to children, and these gifts often consist of a book as well as a heritage symbol such as an African artifact or artwork.

1. Some say that Santa Claus was actually created by the Americans, courtesy of The Coca-Cola Company.  In fact, Santa wears red and white because they are the colors used to promote the Coca-Cola brand, so it must be true!  Images of Santa Claus were popularized through a depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company’s Christmas advertising in the 1930s.  

The Holiday Season around the world is celebrated with the spirit of giving, love, peace and joy.   Whether it is the magic of Los Reyes Magos or Babushka or Dun Che Lao Ren, or Santa, the spirit of the holiday season is special and meant to be shared with family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers passing by.  We wish you a very happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year 2013.

… Stay tuned for the next Segment of HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life Series, where we’ll explore… New Year Resolutions for 2013 across the world. 

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This article was written by Rachanee Thevenet, Co-Founder of HT Localization.  Rachanee is an Asian-American expat living in Spain with her family.  She loves all things international including food, art, literature, culture, languages and people.  She has years of product marketing expertise and global expansion experience.

HT Localization, LLC. is a worldwide translation & localization agency providing a full range of professional language translation services, including social media localization, marketing translations, website translations, software localization, eLearning materials, documentation translations, etc.  With locations in the US, Spain, Zambia & Thailand, and coverage across all languages and most industries, HT Localization is well positioned to provide around the globe services for all translation needs.  

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