Different countries, different customs
Secret Santa is well known in many parts of the world; but naturally each country’s version of Secret Santa has its own name. For instance, in Germany the tradition is known as Wichteln, which can be translated as ‘being a pixie’ – being helpful and giving gifts without the recipient knowing about them.
Portugal, Spain and South America also have traditions of secret gift giving. In Portugal, gifts are given by an amigo secreto (a secret friend) and in Spain, it’s the amigo invisible (an invisible friend). In both Ireland and Austria, and in some parts of Germany, the Baby Jesus is said to be responsible for the secret gifts. The name Kris Kindle or Kris Kringle, which can be used to refer to Santa Claus (particularly in Ireland and Canada) is derived from the German word Christkindl or the Christ Child.
Moving across the map toward the east, it becomes somewhat harder to find versions of his custom. In Poland they have the classic Święty Mikołaj (Santa Claus). During the Soviet era, Dziadek Mróz (Jack Frost) was responsible for the gifts. Jack Frost was introduced in order to phase out the religious background of gift gifing, but after the fall of the Soviet Union, Jack Frost has fallen out of fashion and is mainly referred to within atheist families.
In countries located further east, ranging across Asia, the tradition of Secret Santa is now extremely rare. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Secret Santa is a purely western tradition that has gradually taken hold in various parts of the world. However, it could also be said that if you do live in a country where this wonderful tradition is still unknown, there’s no reason to miss out on the joys of Christmas. Perhaps you could yourself become an ambassador for the Secret Santa tradition and establish it where you live, bringing traditional Christmas cheer closer to many more people.


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