The fascinating legend of Olentzero

Christmas is all around! The season’s joy, family moments and of course….presents! The little ones must have been worn to be “good kids or you‘d be given carbon” However, there was a time when carbon was considered a good present. That’s how the legend of Olentzero begins, the Father Christmas or Santa Claus of Euskadi and Navarre.

Once upon a time, in the cold and magic mountains of Euskadi, called Herria, there was a fairy with long blond hair that wandered through the forest, accompanied by her loyal prakagorri, some little pixies with red trousers. One day, as they were resting next to a river, a prakagorri warned her that something was moving between the bushes. When the fairy went closer, she saw a baby that had been abandoned. She was so surprised, she told: “Your name will be Olentzero because finding you was the most amazing thing”. And I will gift you with Power, Courage and Love, for the rest of your life.

The fairy took Olentzero to a close home where a childless couple lived and they accepted the baby with open arms. They were really happy and from that moment they adopted the baby as their son and he never lacked anything. He grew up and was happy, working with firewood to produce carbon.


As the years passed by, Olentzero’s parents passed away and he was left alone in the little house in the mountains, becoming lonelier. The village’s children were looking at him full of surprise as he was only spending his time working and collecting, as they were out playing.

Suddenly, one day, winter came earlier and stronger. Snowfalls were so heavy that ended up locking people in their houses. The bad thing is that as nobody had time to collect carbon for their fireplaces, they were feeling extremely cold.

Olentzero felt so happy to help those people that he decided to repeat it every year. However, people had learned their lesson and begun to collect carbon earlier that year. Olentzero thought that this year, giving people carbon had no sense, so he made toys for all the village’s kids and left them on their doorstep.


Since then, every 25th December, Olentzero delivers his magic to all Euskal Herria houses and there is no Basque or Navarre child that doesn’t wake up to find a lot of presents. This is the legend of Olentzero, a special person that earned the affection of kids (and adults) for generations and generations.

And what are you going to ask for this Christmas?

Text: Paloma Díaz Espiñeira

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