Santa's Rivals around the World ...

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For most reading this article, the symbol of Christmas is Santa Claus.

But for many people around the world, the jolly fat man in a red suit is behind a whole host of other characters in significance and meaning.

Come with me on a journey to meet some very different Christmas characters.

1. Iceland Celebrates Christmas with Cats, Ogres and Yule Lads

Iceland Celebrates Christmas with Cats, Ogres and Yule Lads

Just like Britain and America have Santa Claus, elves and a bevy of reindeer to deliver gifts at Christmas, Iceland's children can look forward to a whole host of festive creatures: from Gryla, a horrible ogress and her 13 sons, the Yule Lads who descend from the mountains at Christmas, to an enormous black cat that prowls the country on Christmas Eve in search of anyone who hasn't received a new stitch of clothing.

It will eat the poor sap, no matter what age!

Naughty children falling into the claws of Gryla don't fare much better either, although they get to escape if they repent their naughty deeds.

Everybody else gets boiled in Gryla's cauldron, while her young troll’s sons look for ways to cause mischief among humans.

2. Austrian and Bavarian Children Look out for Horned Krampus

Austrian and Bavarian Children Look out for Horned Krampus

Horned, hairy and sporting hooves, the Krampus demon descends from the Alps on 5th December to punish naughty kids.

All over Austria and Germany Santa Claus is due to deliver small gifts into kids' shoes on 6th December, so Krampus makes sure no undeserving child gets a gift.

Krampus typically appears armed with a birch branch that he uses as a whip to whack naughty kids.

He also has a large sack or tub strapped to his back into which he stuffs badly behaved children to carry them off and up into his mountain lair for further punishment.

3. Catalonia in Spain Has Pooping Logs for Christmas

Catalonia in Spain Has Pooping Logs for Christmas

A mixture of a piñata and a Yule log best describes the Caga Tió or Tió de Nadal of north-eastern Spain, where Catalonians believe the log will poop out presents for good children on Christmas morning, but only if kids start fattening up the Yule log on 8th December.

The pooping log favors candy and likes to be kept warm under a snuggle blanket.

The log often has a face painted on it and is sometimes wearing a red hat.

On Christmas morning, kids give him a good whack with a stick to prompt his gift-poop activity, while they're singing carols.

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