Father Christmas Father Christmas is the traditional character that children in many English speaking countries, especially the United Kingdom, associate with the festive time of the year. The Father Christmas character has influenced the development of the Santa Claus character in the United States. However the two characters are now so close that most people now consider Father Christmas and Santa Claus to be interchangeable. But each of these icons have a different history and totally different origins behind them. Check out The Real Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas for further facts and information about this subject. But back to the story of Father Christmas!
Picture from 'A Fairy Story' by Frances Hodgson Burnett December 1906
Father Christmas - The Tradition of giving gifts To understand the emergence of Father Christmas in England we need to take a look at history. The presentation of gifts on Christmas day was an English custom of very great antiquity dating back to the pagan past and the Romans. In 1419, the practice of giving gifts had become badly corrupted, and the abuse had to be repressed. Hence we find the following "Regulation made that the Serjeants and other officers of the Mayor, Sheriffs, or City, shall not beg for Christmas gifts". The Middle Ages saw the emergence of festive fun at Christmas and the Lord of Misrule and the Master of the revels were introduced. The customs related to the Wassail were also followed giving way to some bawdy behaviour. The religious Protestant reformation in England had the effect of cutting the ties with the Catholic religion, and all of the saints, including Saint Nicholas who formed part of the basis for the American Santa Claus. The Protestant reformers also banned Christmas but it was reinstated when King Charles II was restored to the throne of England.
History of Father Christmas The character of Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 1600's in Britain. Pictures of Father Christmas survive from that time in history and portray him as a fat, bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe. The Victorian era brought increased prosperity to Great Britain bringing about new traditions such as sending cards, the Tree and giving gifts. In time the legend and story of the American Santa Claus has merged with Father Christmas - they are now viewed as one and the same character.
Father Christmas Traditions, customs and beliefs about Father Christmas:
Lapland is considered to be the traditional home of Father Christmas, although some now belive he lives at the North Pole
Mince Pies and a glass of sherry are traditionally left as a gift for Father Christmas
Father Christmas is believed to ride across the skies in a sleigh pulled by reindeers
Traditionally letters were written to Father Christmas and thrown on the fire where they went up in smoke and were magically sent to his home
Children hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve
Children are told that he will not come unless they are fast asleep
He is now dressed in exactly the same fashion as Santa Claus a red suit with a white fur trim
Mrs Claus does not really feature in any of the modern stories about him, although traditionally he was helped with toy making by elves
Old pictures of Father Christmas also depict him in a green, blue and mauve suit
The tradition of giving gifts
The legends and History of Father Xmas
Traditions in England
Santa Claus in America
"Merry Christmas, have a happy and prosperous New Year!"