Santa Diversity: A Look at St. Nick Around the World

Map and GIS vendor Esri's "Santas Around the World" Website highlights the differences between Santa characters in different nations.

The image of Santa in the United States is quite different than the image of Santa in China, France, Russia and other nations.

To highlight those varied views of old Saint Nick, GIS (graphical information system) and mapping vendor Esri has created an intriguing and colorful Website featuring photos and descriptions of Santas in a wide range of nations and cultures around the world.

"In the U.S. he's known as Santa Claus, but how has this traditional Christmas character evolved and transformed over time and around the world?" asked Esri on the Web page, which is titled "Santas Around the World."

Thirty images and brief descriptions of Santas from the United States, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Romania, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Chile, Brazil, China, Japan and Hawaii are included, with new ones occasionally being included as visitors to the site add special requests.

"It’s a way to showcase our technology, but to also have some fun with it," Matt Artz, GIS and science manager for Esri, told eWEEK.

Some of the Santa images are photographs of small figurines that his wife collects from different countries and displays each holiday season, he said. The photo of the U.S. Santa is one such figurine.

"It's my favorite thing that she brings out for the different holidays," he said. "Every one of them has the country name on the base of the figurine."

The images are colorful and show the diversity of how various cultures see the man in red who brings presents to the world's children at Christmas. The Santas, when clicked, float over a map page for the nation where they are featured, tying the images to detailed and colorful Esri maps from around the world.

Robby Deming, a spokesman for Esri, said the site was built using Esri's free map Storytelling Templates, which allow anyone to build Web pages that can tell stories using maps, images, videos, text and more.

Also created for the holiday season is an Esri Twitter map, where visitors can post a Tweet about their favorite holiday places.

Esri has been producing similar holiday map features for about five years, according to Deming. Other holiday maps have also been built for Halloween and for New Year's Eve celebrations.

"GIS is traditionally something that not a lot of people can understand, but when you present something like this, they can start to understand what they can do with the technology," he said.

A New Year's Eve map for this year has also been created for visitors. Last year's version highlighted New Year's celebrations in a wide range of cities around the world, including Paris, Las Vegas, New York, Madrid, Casablanca, Berlin, Moscow, Vienna, Tokyo, Sydney, Shanghai and Hong Kong.