Joulupukki is the Finnish version of the traditional Santa Claus legend. The name literally translates to Yule goat. Joulupukkis were initially thought of as evil men who demanded respect from children. Legend has it that these figures had a malevolent, goat-like appearance that would scare innocent children during Christmas. The modern version of the Joulupukki depicts an aged man wearing a red, goat-skinned fur coat, with an uncanny resemblance to the traditional Santa Claus. Contrary to Santa's traditions of gift-giving at night, the Joulupukki roam about freely during daytime, handing out presents to children. The transition from being a mythical, evil creature to a compassionate, chubby, gift-giver will never be known. Joulupukki uses a walking stick and travels in sleighs that do not fly, and when he encounters children, he traditionally starts conversing with them by asking if there "any well behaved children" in the group.
Finnish Christmas Figure
The Evil Joulupukki
Although the modern Joulupukkis appear and act like Santa Claus, history states and portrays a very different picture of the original ones. In Pagan history, bad spirits were warded off with prayers and other festivities. These bad spirits were said to have horns and a Yule's face. Yule goats are considered to be ugly looking creatures with a temperamental attitude, hence the evil omens associated with the face.
The Joulupukkis were known to scare children during Christmas and are said to have asked and demanded presents from them instead of giving them gifts. There are blurred theories that give possibilities for the sudden transformation from an evil Joulupukki to the Saint like character of Father Christmas. The character and even the appearance have changed in the Joulupukkis with the name remaining as the sole feature of the past.
Myths & Legends