Legend of Olentzero
The story of Olentzero is one that has seen many changes over the centuries. Nowadays, the tale of Olentzero closely resembles that of characters such as Santa Claus and Father Christmas. A popular rendition of the modern Olentzero was written by Angel Benito Gastañaga under the title Olentzero: Izena duan guztia omen da. A complete English translation of this tale can be found here.
In this children’s story, Olentzero begins his life as an abandoned infant who is found and raised by a fairy. After blessing the baby with the gifts of “strength, courage, and love," the fairy leaves him with a childless couple who raise him as their own. Many years later, following the death of his adopted parents, Olentzero begins making toys that he will distribute to orphans in a nearby town.
On one particular day, as Olentzero is taking his gifts to the children in town, he catches sight of a burning house. He immediately runs in the house and is able to save all of the children inside, but he perishes in the flames before being able to get himself out of the blazing structure. The fairy that had rescued him as an infant sees what happened and decides to return Olentzero to life for all of the good deeds he has performed in his lifetime. Not only does the fairy save Olentzero from death, but she grants him eternal life so that he can continue to make and distribute toys to all orphans in Basque Country.
Loosely translated, the Basque phrase “Izena duan guztia omen da" means “Everything that has a name exists." In the closing pages of Gastañaga’s tale, he emphasizes the idea behind this philosophy: As long as you believe in Olentzero, his message will continue to live.