I love Santa Claus. Always have, I am, after all, named after the Saint himself.
I also enjoy hearing and reading about the various gift givers that different cultures have.
One of my very favorite things about the Holiday Around the World at Epcot is the storytellers that several of the countries have.
My wife, friends, and I caught as many of the offerings as possible on our recent trip, and I've shared a brief look in my trip reports, but I thought it appropriate to share a more in depth look at them on this Christmas Day.
Heading around to the right of World Showcase, we'll start with Father Christmas, who can be found in the United Kingdom.
Each pavilion's storyteller has a scroll describing customs and traditions from that country, and you can find appearance times in park guides.
Father Christmas shares a few of the traditions that started in the UK, such as the sending of Christmas Cards in 1843, and the hanging of mistletoe which dates back to the Druidic ceremonies of the Winter Solstice.
Many storytellers also pose for photos with guests.
Left to right: Barbie, Nick, Father Christmas, Jill, Nicole, and Josh
Moving on to France, we find Père Noël, who delivers gifts to children on Christmas Eve.
He tells of the importance of the Creche, or Nativity Scene. Traditionally, candles are lit around the Creche, or a special Yule Log is burned on the fire.
He continues telling us of le reveillon, a feast after Midnight Mass, and how children set our shoes around the Christmas tree in anticipation of a visit from le Père Noël.
Continuing on to Japan, we learn about O-Shogatsu, the Japanese New Year. lasting from January 1st through the 3rd. An important symbol of the New Year is the Daruma Doll. There are no pupils in the Darumas eyes. The tradition is to make a wish, and paint a pupil in the left eye. If the wish comes true, you paint in the right pupil.
We'll come back to The American Adventure later. Our next stop for now will be Italy.
To me, the most heart wrenching tale of a gift bringer is that of the kind-hearted witch La Befana who arrives on the eve of the Epiphany, January 5th, to grant gifts to good children.
As her story goes, the Three Wise Men visited Befana at her home and asked if she knew where to find the baby Jesus. She did not, but offered them shelter for the night. The magi invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, but she declined. Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out the astrologers and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the little baby. -sniff- This story gets me every time I hear it.
In Germany, we meet Helga, who teaches us how to say Merry Christmas in German. She explains how many Christmas traditions such as the advent calender and Christmas trees began in Germany. She also tells us of her first nutcracker.
Norway has, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining gift givers, Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome.
But before we meet him, we meet Sigrid, who cannot see Julenissen, only we, the audience can at first.
While we learn of the traditions of Christmas in farm communities in Norway, Julenissen gets up to mischief, and plays tricks on poor Sigrid, with the help of the audience, until, in the end, he reveals himself to her.
Back to The American Adventure, where Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are represented, both of which we never did get to see this trip.
Here, you won't hear a story from Santa, but instead, get to sit on his knee, and tell him what you'd like for Christmas. He is joined by Mrs. Claus.
Did we get our photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus? Of course!
In fact, Barbie made the dress she is wearing for just this occasion!
Regardless of how you celebrate, we wish you a happy and safe holiday, and Merry Christmas!