Italy’s Christmas Santa Claus Babbo Natale, Italy’s version of Santa Claus, is becoming more popular and gift giving on Christmas day is becoming more common. La Befana, an old woman who delivers gifts on Epiphany, January 6 is still the more popular Italian Christmas figure. Babbo Natale or Father Christmas is gaining popularity in Italy. Babbo Natale is a skinnier and more regal looking version of Santa Claus. They both wear red cloaks with white trim, but Santa Claus has most decidedly enjoyed more second helpings at the dinner table than Babbo Natale. Historically, Christmas has been more reserved in Italy than in other European countries and certainly more reserved than the raucous month long Christmas season enjoyed in the US. Many Italians now hang Christmas stockings for Babbo Natale to fill. Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, has very European roots in traditional folklore. Babbo Natale in Italy, Père Noël in France, Father Christmas in England, Julenisse in Scandanavia , Sinter Klass in the Netherlands, as well as Santa Claus are all regionalized versions of the story of Saint Nicholas. La Befana though, is uniquely Italian. Since the Santa Claus story was popularized by Clement Moore and Coca Cola, the story the world over has many similarities. Babbo Natale also has reindeer, whose names are: Cometa, Ballerina, Fulmine, Donnola, Freccia, Saltarello, Donato, Cupido (Comet, Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Donder, Blitzen, Cupid). Children all over the world write letters to their version of Santa Claus in hopes of receiving gifts. And, adults, well it is likely that many of us still believe in the spirit of the jolly man in the red suit whether he is known as Santa Claus or Babbo Natale. In Italy the Christmas season lasts for a few weeks up until Epiphany. It is common practice for Italian children write letters to Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) asking for Christmas presents. Christmas meals include: Lo zampone (skin of a lower pig leg filled with minced meat) Il cotechino (sausage, similar to salami) Turkey Lamb Tortellini (ring-shaped pasta) Il panettone (fruitcake) Bombardino (a popular drink similar to eggnog) Another popular Christmas activity is the “urn of fate”, in which presents are put into a lucky dip and there is one gift per person. However, gift-exchanging also occurs on Epiphany. in Italy, he is known as Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), for Babbo is the name children call their father, and even in the tiniest villages (of 80 people), Babbo Natale is welcomed and photographed with children each Christmas Eve while families are gathered around the table for a traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Babbo Natale is usually a straniero (foreigner), for he does not speak Italian, since he is from the North Pole. Babbo Natale sends his blessings around the world to you, and happily shares some of the joy with you as he wishes you peace, love, and good will toward all mankind. While La Bafana, the good Christmas Witch is something only found in Italy, Santa is really the same all over the world, but in Italy, his name is Babbo Natale–Daddy Christmas. Babbo Natale is who we call Santa Claus in the States, or Saint Nick or more formally, Saint Nicholas, but his roots are in many European countries’ traditional folklore. To the French, he is Pere Noël (Father Christmas), Father Christmas in England, Julenisse (Christmas Elf) in Scandanavia , Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, and Sankt Nikolaus or Weihnachtsmann in Germany. Santa Claus was made popular throughout the world by Coca Cola ads and Clement Moore’s story “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) so there are many similarities. They all are kind and give presents. Most wear red. Some are fat and short, others are thinner and taller. Santa has a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and so does Babbo Natale. Their names are a bit different, though: Cometa, Ballerina, Fulmine, Donnola, Freccia, Saltarello, Donato, Cupido (in place of our Comet, Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Donder, Blitzen, Cupid).All over the world, Santa Claus and Babbo Natale represent the Christmas Spirit–lo Spirito di Natale. His jolly, kind, all-knowing face is a sign of love to children… a reminder than in fact, they are loved… by God, by Santa and by their parents and siblings. He is a symbol of what Christmas is all about–the Good Life that God gave us. Babbo Natale sends his blessings around the world to you, and happily shares some of the joy with you as he wishes you peace, love, and good will toward all mankind. So perhaps the next time your children ask if Santa Claus is real, maybe you should take them on a trip to Italy.