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Gledelig Jul! Joyeux Noël! Frohe Weinachten! Exploring global Christmas traditions with Santa

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Pere Noel, Kris Kringle and Julenisse in the "St. Louis on the Air" studio.

A dispatch from the North Pole came to the “St. Louis on the Air” studio earlier this week with an offer we simply couldn’t refuse — the chance for three Santas from elsewhere around the world to visit with host Don Marsh and discuss what Christmas is like for children around the globe.

At first, there was a little suspicion.

Then, there was shock.

Then, there was awe.

Yes, it is true, three Santas from around the world did in fact stop by the “St. Louis on the Air” studio today.

Their names were:

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Julenisse, who hails from the Scandanavian countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland

“Halo, I am Julenisse and this is my goat, Yule. We are called Julenisse in Norway; In Sweden, Jultomten; In Denmark, Julemanden; and in Finland, Joulupukki. Joulupukki literally means Christmas goat. Originally, he was a little more goat-like but we’ve had a bit of a makeover.”

Pere Noel, who hails from France

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Pere Noel.

“Oui, I am Pere Noel, which is the French name for ‘Father Christmas,”’ said Pere Noel. “I have been visiting the children of France for many, many years in December. Two times I go to France in December — the eve of St. Nicholas Day on the sixth of December and Christmas Eve. When I go to France I am accompanied by my pet donkey, whose name is Mistletoe. He carries the gifts for the good children of France.”

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Kris Kringle

Kris Kringle, who hails from Germany

“Frohe Weinachten! That’s how you would say ‘Merry Christmas’ in Deutsche. I visit all of the boys and girls in Germany, two times of year. Once on St. Nicholas Day and once on Christmas Eve to deliver the presents to those who have been good.”

​Here are some of the fun facts we learned:

  • In France, Germany and Scandanavian countries, Santa comes through the front door — preferring to stay away from the fire hazards of the chimney.
  • If you are on the “naughty” list in Germany, you will get a visit from Krampus. “He is a very scary individual who you would not want to meet. He is a large, tall man with horns on the side of his head and he takes away bad children,” said Kris Kringle.
  • Julenisse dresses very similar to gnomes you might find in the garden. “Sometimes I’m mistaken for a lumberjack or a mountain shepherd,” said Julenisse.
  • Where these Santas live in the Christmas “off-season.”
  • Pere Noel has a magic key that opens the front door to houses with children who have been good all year — his key is what tells him children have not been good because the door won’t open.
  • If you’ve been good in Scandanavian countries, Julenisse will knock on your front door on Christmas Day, exchange presents, dance, sing and eat porridge with you. If you’ve been bad, though? “We knock on the door and then we run away and laugh in the bushes.”
    "I believe we are like a brotherhood all trying to spread Christmas cheer to our individual section of world."
  • Santas around the world are not competitive. “I believe we are like a brotherhood all trying to spread Christmas cheer to our individual section of world,” said Kris Kringle. “If there is something I could do to help my fellow Santas, I would do everything I could.” The feeling was mutual for Julenisse and Pere Noel: “Not only do we work together as kind of a union of Santa Clauses with Santa Claus in the North Pole as the head of that union, we also complement each other,” said Julenisse. “If you see us on the street, we sing out to each other. I’m a little bit more of a silly prankster”
  • We also had a chance to learn about the ladies in these Santas’ lives. Pere Noel is married to Mere Noel and she takes care of things in Lapland while Santa is gone. Julenisse and Kris Kringle happen to be single! 

In the days leading up to Christmas, you can find these jolly fellows at St. Charles’ historic Main Street “Christmas Traditions” celebration which runs Wednesdays and Fridays in the evening as well as Saturdays and Sundays during the day until Dec. 23. Tonight, the celebration will happen from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, on Christmas Eve, there will be an official closing ceremony and Santa send-off from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

After that, Santa has plenty of work to do before Christmas morning!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from “St. Louis on the Air!”

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.