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The legend of Santa Claus traces back to a real person. His name was St. Nicholas, and he was a monk in an area of the world now called Turkey. Known for intense generosity and devoting himself to the wellbeing of others, St. Nicholas spent his life traveling to poor areas of the country and donating his wealth to anyone who needed it. This reputation became legendary, and stories of St. Nicholas have been passed down through the generations and rewritten in various ways ever since.
Examining the Santa legend from the perspective of language learning is interesting. If Santa Claus was a real person today, what language would he speak? The area where the real St. Nicholas originated was once called Lycia, and the official language was Greek. Therefore, we can determine that Greek was Santa’s first spoken language.
Santa Claus in Various Cultures: Christmas in All Foreign Languages
A variety of countries have their own legends about Santa, which is why he’s become such an interesting symbol of Christmas worldwide.
1. Santa Claus in Norway
The Norwegians have some unique ideas about Santa Claus. Rather than coming from Lycia like the original St. Nicholas, they believe Santa was born under a rock in an area north of the town of Drøbak. They also believe that Drøbak is where he currently resides. Historians believe that this legend may have came about due to the Norwegian belief in the elder god Odin. Santa and Odin have a few similarities, including a white beard and the tendency to go down the chimney with gifts. They also both have help from the animal kingdom. Santa has his reindeer, and Odin has an eight-legged horse.
The Norwegian contribution to the Santa legend means that Santa is likely fluent in Norwegian. That’s a wonderful thing for Norwegian kids, who send over 30,000 letters to Santa Claus each year. If Santa didn’t speak Norwegian, the kids would have to learn a language before writing him!
2. Santa Claus in Mexico
Christmas is an exciting part of the year for Mexican families, lasting from December to the second day of February, a holiday known as Candelaria. Epiphany is another special holiday that marks the season. It takes place on the sixth day of the new year and involves presents being left by the Three Kings. Visits from Santa can be expected on Christmas Eve, same as in most other cultures around the world. Since he’s been responding to the wishes of Spanish-speaking children in Mexico for many years, it makes sense to believe that Santa is fluent in Spanish as well.
3. Santa Claus in Russia
The Russian culture has its own unique spin on the Santa tale. Referred to as Ded Moroz, the Russian Santa has a long, white beard similar to the other versions. However, he dresses in Russian clothing and carries a large staff. His gifts arrive on New Years Eve rather than Christmas, and instead of the classic elves, he is assisted by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden.
Even if the story is a bit different, the Russians seem to have a strong grasp on the Santa concept. That must mean that Santa has spent time in the country and can certainly speak Russian as a result!
4. Santa Claus in Sweden
If you expected Sweden to have its own spin on the Santa tale, you were correct. The Swedish version of Santa is known as Jultomten, which translates to the Christmas gnome. He brings presents to children with the help of other gnomes, similar to the elf legend we see in other versions of the story. In Sweden, Christmas extends all the way to January 13th, when Christmas trees are officially taken down. With all that extra time in Sweden, it makes sense that Santa would have picked up Swedish.
5. Santa Claus in Finland
In Finland, the origins of the Santa legend are borderline spooky. Referred to as Joulupukki, the Finnish Santa has horns on his head and was once considered a symbol of fertility. People in the area believe that Joulupukki lives in the northern part of the country with Mother Christmas and their helper gnomes, which means that Santa is certainly fluent in the language.
Learn a Language Like Santa: It Won’t Take Long
Santa has had many centuries to venture around the world learning languages and helping kids, but you won’t have to wait that long to learn the language of your choice. With a variety of apps that can help you learn a language online, it’s easier than ever to become multilingual. If you’ve always wanted to begin learning a language, there’s no better time than the coming new year to begin.