Learn about Christmas traditions around the world with fourteen gift-bringing characters from different cultures! From the famed Santa Claus to the mysterious Olentzero, from the sweet Christkind to the horrifying Krampus—the world is full of interesting and unique traditions, associated with the season.
In places where the seasons are well defined and the winter months are cold, December often brings a celebration that revolves around a particular character who brings the festive spirit along with a bag of presents for children. Mostly they focus on the figure of a kind old man. In the USA and Canada, he is known as Santa Claus. In Europe, many countries celebrate his prototype, Saint Nicholas. In Slavic country, people wait for Father Frost, who also looks and behaves like Santa Claus. In Scandinavia, the gifts are brought by a gnome, and in Iceland, there is a jolly gang of trolls. They seem less related to Santa Claus, though share his sense of fashion to some degree. But the list doesn’t end here. There are plenty of other unique gift-bringers!
Did you know that in Russia, old Father Frost is accompanied by his granddaughter, the sweet and beautiful Snow Maiden? She is as popular as her grandfather among the children, if not more so!
In Iceland, there are thirteen gift-bringers that come one after another! It is an opportunity to get thirteen presents, but if children want them, they need to behave very well for thirteen days straight.
And some of the Christmas characters are particularly unique – and they also bring unique gifts. Knecht Ruprecht, from Germany, just doesn’t spoil any children with sweets – he only brings switches to naughty boys and girls. Good thing he accompanies Saint Nicholas, who shares plenty of presents among well-behaved children. Some of his other followers include Zwarte Piet and Krampus.
To celebrate this exciting world of winter holidays and cultural diversity, we have created a pack of fourteen dress-up dolls. Besides Santa Claus and his loyal helper Christmas Elf, you will get to know Befana (Italy), Christkind (Austria, Switzerland, Germany and many other European countries), Julenisse (Scandinavia), Knecht Ruprecht (Germany), Krampus (Austria, Germany, Croatia), Olentzero (parts of Spain and France), Saint Lucia (Scandinavia and Italy), Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and many other European countries), Snegurochka (Russia), Tovlis Papa (Georgia), Yule Lad (Iceland), and Zwarte Piet (Netherlands). Each of them will tell you about a new tradition from their country. If you like them, you can try some new traditions for yourself!
The paper dolls can become a part of your Christmas unit study or go into your advent calendar if you like to make your own.
Christmas Around the World Pack Features
- four paper dolls, two boys and two girls, both in colour and black-and-white to colour your own
- fourteen costumes (hats, wigs, and clothes), also both in colour and in black-and-white if you wish to colour your own
- information cards about fourteen different characters associated with winter holidays around the world
- each character wishes “Merry Christmas” in his own language (except Krampus whose customary greeting is Gruß vom Krampus)
This is an example of two printable pages dedicated to Snegurochka.
Here are some more information cards.
Here are a few questions that may need answering before you decide how suitable this pack is for your family!
Can I use this pack if my children still believe in Santa Claus?
Yes, as long as they would be alright with the knowledge that children in other countries get gifts from different characters. While some of the articles on gift-bringing characters briefly discuss their roots, the fact that parents play their roles in the modern world has been tactfully omitted. If your children already know that, they will understand. If they don’t, the articles shouldn’t reveal any secrets.
Is this pack religiously-oriented or secular-oriented?
Neither. This material objectively presents the traditions in different cultures without much examination of the belief-systems behind them. Many gift-bringers came from Christian traditions (Christkind, Saint Nicholas, Saint Lucia, and, surprisingly, Befana), while others have pagan or secular origins (Yule Lad, Julnisse, Snow Maiden).
Do all these characters come at Christmas time?
Thereabouts. As you meet different characters, you will find out that not all of them come on Christmas day, though. Sinterklaas comes on his own day, December 6, but for those countries who celebrate him, this is the beginning of the seasonal winter celebrations. Tovlis Papa, from Georgia, behaves in many ways like Santa Claus and brings gifts for children, but he actually comes on New Year’s Eve. Befana is even known to sneak into houses through a chimney to leave her gifts, but she comes on the day of Epiphany (January 6), which concludes the holiday celebrations in Italy.
Whenever these characters come though, they add to the festive spirit of winter celebrations. And if you get into the spirit of Christmas around the world, you can hold your own celebrations of different characters. Have Krampus visit on December 6 or dress like Saint Lucia, with candles in your hair, on December 13.
How to Make Dress-Up Paper Dolls
It is very easy. Cut the dolls from the pages with the base dolls, then cut the clothing layers out. You don’t need anything more than scissors for cutting.
You can make a classic paper doll with the paper layers that attach with folding tabs, as you’ve seen on all the pictures, or you can make a magnetic doll to go on a fridge or magnetic board. In order to make the doll magnetic, you can either print it on special magnetic sheets OR print it on standard paper and adhere little strips of magnet tape to the back. For extra long life, laminate the clothes and the dolls before gluing magnets to them.
Magnetic dolls are even easier for little kids to handle since they do not need to fold tabs!
You can get a sample of the pack (with Santa Claus and Elf costumes) for free here!
Study various layers of human body anatomy with these paper dolls.