Katrin drew our attention to the Christmas character of the Christkind, found in regions as diverse as Austria, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Rebublic, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and, according to Wikipedia, “…parts of Hispanic America, in certain areas of southern Brazil and in the Acadiana region of Louisiana.”
The Christkind was introduced by the German Protestant priest Martin Luther (1483-1546). At the time, tradition held that gifts were given by St. Nicholas. Protestants, however, didn’t acknowledge saints, so they needed an alternative mythological gift giver. The Christkind was originally depicted as baby Jesus, but in many places today is instead an angelic blond child or adult woman.
More photographs of the Christkind:
(source)Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.