Friday 6 December 2013

F is for...Father Christmas

What would Christmas be these days without Father Christmas? He his probably getting better known in Britain as just Santa. Even the 'Claus' is getting dropped. His function these days to determine who has been 'naughty or nice' but original references to him from the 15th Century depict him as a character giving good cheer at Christmas and enjoying the feasting of the times. It is thanks again to the Victorians that we now know him in Britain as a distributor of gifts.

Whilst Coca Cola are credited with turning Father Christmas' clothes from green to red in their advert in 1931, it is probably more correct to say they popularised his red outfit. Thomas Nast's drawings for Harper's Weekly dating from 1863 onwards has Father Christmas shown as the large, jolly man we think of today. He took his inspiration from the description of 'St. Nick' in Clement Clark Moore's 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nick, better known as 'Twas the night before Christmas.

All this points back to one person – St. Nicholas. He is said to have died on 6th December 343, aged 73, and his feast day is also today. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of various causes including children and had an inclination of giving out secret presents such as leaving coins in the shoes that people had left out. The Dutch translation of St. Nicholas is Sinterklass and this is where the name Santa Claus has evolved from. Images of him in religious icons show him resembling the Father Christmas we are familiar with - an elderly man with a white beard and bald head.

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