Every child knows that the greatest giver of Christmas gifts is Santa Claus with his reindeer, or depicted as snowman in Christmas snow decor. Apparently, Santa has female counterparts, the Kristine Kringles of the world. There may be other myths and legends of female Santas. Featured are Kristine Kringles in Scandinavia, France, Italy, and Russia.
With their own zest, they join Santa around the world bringing their own gifts to children in celebrating a fun-filled Christmas.
Saint Lucia, Scandinavia (Finland, Norway, and Sweden)
Christmas season in Scandinavia begins on December 13, the feast of day of Saint Lucia. During the 1st century, Lucia was tortured and put to death when she refused to give up her religion to marry an unbeliever. As the legend about her spread, she came to be known as the Lucia Bride. She visited houses to give out gifts and treats, dressed in white and carrying a candle. In present times, the oldest daughter in the family assumes the role of the Lucia Bride for the day.
Tante Arie, France
Tante Arie (Aunt Arie) is an elderly gift bringer who visits the Franche-Comté region of France at Christmastime. She lives in the mountains and comes down only to leave offerings for kids. The good children can expect a gift, but the bad ones ones get dunce caps. Children in other parts of France receive gifts from Père Noël (Father Christmas), a tall, thin gentleman who dresses very much like Santa Claus.
La Befana, Italy
Italy’s Kristine Kringle comes from an Italian lore based on the Three Wise Men who traveled afar to pay tribute to the Christ child. On their way to see the baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men (Magi) stopped at Befana’s house seeking directions to the humble manger and the newborn babe. She had no information to share, and though she was invited to accompany them, she begged off with excuses that her household chores needed her attention. After the Wise Men left, she immediately regretted her decision. She did everything to find the Magi but they had disappeared without a trace. On the day of Epiphany or the Day of the Wise Men celebrated 6th of January, La Befana goes out in search of the child – her arms full of gifts. Since her search is fruitless, on her jjourneys, she leaves her gifts for little children.
As legend tells, Kolyada is a white-robed maiden who travels through Russia on a sleigh, accompanied by carol singers. She goes from house to house leaving gifts for the children. She is believed to be both the goddess of winter and the goddess of the sun.
Snow Maiden, Russia
Another more popular Russian legend is the Snow Maiden or Snegurochka. She is supposed to be Grandfather Frost’s granddaughter. Young and pretty dressed in a blue, a fur-trimmed costume, she accompanies her grandfather on his rounds delivering gifts and candies to Russian children. Snow Maiden returns every winter, but when spring comes, folklore says she will melt away unless she returns to her snowy home in the North.
The legends of the female Santa Claus come from different countries, but they end up doing the same thing, to make kids happy by giving them Christmas gifts.