Babbo Natale, or Father Christmas is gaining popularity in Italy. Babbo Natale, Italy’s version of Santa Claus, is becoming more popular and gift giving on Christmas day is becoming more common. La Befana, the old woman who delivers gifts on Epiphany, January 6 is still the more popular Christmas figure.
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.