Who brings gifts to children in Latin America?

Santa Claus is the most representative icon of Christmas, but in some Latin American countries is known with different names or even has its own character who gives gifts to children.

Colacho - Costa Rica

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In Costa Rica, Santa Claus is known as ‘Colacho’. Its name changed over the years. It is  due to a word’s game. In that beautiful Central American country, men called ‘Nicolás’ are called ‘Nicolacho’, is because ‘San Nicolás’ automatically became known by the abbreviation ‘Colacho’, a nice elderly man, bearded and with a friendly face that brings joy to the houses by giving gifts for the children.

Viejito Pascuero - Chile

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In Chile there is a character similar to Santa Claus but with a different story. There are two versions of its origin: some say that the ‘Viejito Pascuero’ was a very rich man and when his parents died he decided to give all of his most precious goods to the neediest children. Others say that decades ago a toy store called Krauss used the image of a plump, old man dressed in red in its advertising, and since in Chile Christmas is better known as ‘Pascua’, they began to call it ‘Viejito Pascuero’ — ‘Old Easter Man’ in english —.

San Nicolás - Venezuela

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In the land of arepas, it is said that San Nicolás of Bari was a Turkish bishop from a wealthy and very generous family. One day he met a very poor man who wanted to sell his three daughters because he could not support them. To avoid this, the bishop threw coins from the chimney, and the coins fell into the socks  the girls were hanging on. This is how the tradition of placing a large stocking for San Nicolás to leave his gifts was born in that country. Although it is also said that this name comes from a Dutch celebration that is held in honor of Sint-Nicolaas.

Santi Clo - Caribbean

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In Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries, Santa Claus is known as Santi Clo. This character arrived at some Christmas in the 17th century when Dutch immigrants brought the Sint-Nicolaas tradition to New Amsterdam, now known as New York. With the coming and going of immigrants, this tradition was carried to these countries, who later adopted the custom to their way of life and adapted to their slang.

Los Reyes Magos - Mexico

Although they are not properly a Christmas tradition, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar are the kings who give toys to Mexican children every January 6th. The legend, coming from the Catholic religion, tells that they are transported on a camel, an elephant and a horse and were they who brought gifts to Jesus when he was born. Although in Mexico Santa Claus also leaves gifts to children at Christmas, especially in areas that border the United States, ‘Los Tres Reyes Magos — ‘The Three Wise Men’ in english — are more popular.

Papá Noel - South America

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In the 19th century, the legend of ‘Bonhomme Noël’ was known in France. He was a French character who was adapted to Santa Claus because he lived at the North Pole and because his appearance was similar. Later, the legend crossed the Atlantic to become Papá Noel in countries like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay.

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