Santa Claus vs. Saint Nicholas vs. Los Reyes Magos: Christmas Icons

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Difference between Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas and Los Reyes Magos

Santa Claus is famous enough to be the de facto Christmas figure all over the world, and even the historical figure that Claus is based on–Saint Nicholas–has achieved fame outside his native region as well. And then there is Los Reyes Magos, which along with the other two are notable Christmas figures that we compare in this article.


Santa Claus is a mythical figure who is also known variously as Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, and Kris Kringle, although most children simply refer to him as "Santa". Santa Claus actually has roots in history, although he largely remains a legendary and mythological figure in Western culture

Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop–and later saint–who is best known as the historical figure behind Santa Claus. Born in the year 270, Saint Nicholas died on December 6, 346. Saint Nicholas was also known by the title Nikolaos the Wonderworker, because of numerous healing miracles which have been attributed to him.

Los Reyes Magos is the name given to the Magi or Three Wise Men of Christian tradition in Spanish-speaking countries. These men are widely considered to be distinguished travelers from the East, who traveled bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense for the newborn Jesus. Los Reyes Magos are common figures in Christmas celebrations in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries.


One of the most popular legends and traditions surrounding Santa Claus is that he enters homes by way of the chimney. This story can be traced to stories of Saint Nicholas tossing coins down a chimney.

The story may also be traced to the tradition of treating the hearth with some reverence, as a source of blessings. Saint Nicholas on the other hand was known for giving gifts secretly, and for leaving coins in the shoes of children.

Los Reyes Magos were reputed to bring gifts to children who sent them letters before Christmas. These three figures then travel from the Orient, visiting children in their houses much like Santa Claus does. In countries where the Los Reyes Magos are revered, many children prepare food and drinks for each of the wise men as well as for their camels.


Santa Claus is thought to bring gifts to the homes of deserving good children on Christmas Eve, December 24. Some people also believe that Santa brings gifts on the feast day of Saint Nicholas, which is on December 6.

Of course, the holiday of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December 6 in many countries in Europe, and this is a particularly festive day for children.

As for Los Reyes Magos, it is thought that they deliver gifts on the eve of the feast day of the Three Kings, which is on January 5.

Similarities and Differences

Santa Claus

  • A mythical figure also known as Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, and Kris Kringle

Saint Nicholas

  • A Greek bishop and saint best known as the historical figure behind Santa Claus

Los Reyes Magos

  • The name given to the Magi or Three Wise men of Christian tradition in Spanish-speaking countries

Which Christmas icon comes with the best story?
  • Santa Claus
  • Saint Nicholas
  • Los Reyes Magos

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