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Father Christmas

Christmas

Father Christmas

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Father Christmas as depicted in The Chronicles of Narnia (Photo by William Rookwood)
Father Christmas as depicted in The Chronicles of Narnia (Photo by William Rookwood)

Father Christmas is a name used in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and several other Commonwealth Countries, as well as Ireland, for the gift-bringing figure of Christmas or yuletide. The name is also used in translation in many other countries; see Santa Claus.

Although Father Christmas and Santa Claus (the latter deriving from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas: Sinterklaas), are now used interchangeably, and both are to some extent identified with Saint Nicholas, the origins of Father Christmas are quite different from Santa Claus. Traditional differences also include their dress: Father Christmas wears a fur-lined hood, whereas Santa wears a red cap.

Dating back to Norse mythology, Father Christmas has his roots in Paganism. Before Christianity came to British shores, it was customary for an elder man from the community to dress in furs and visit each dwelling. At each house, in the guise of "Old Winter" he would be plied with food and drink before moving on to the next. It was thought he carried the spirit of the winter with him, and that the winter would be kind to anyone hospitable to Old Winter. The custom was still kept in Medieval England, and after a decline during the Commonwealth, became widespread again during the Restoration period. Father Christmas was also a significant character in Christmas mummers' plays.

A book dating from the time of the Commonwealth, The Vindication of CHRISTMAS or, His Twelve Yeares' Observations upon the Times involved Father Christmas advocating a merry, alcoholic Christmas and casting aspersions on the charitable motives of the ruling Puritans.

Excerpt from Josiah King's The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686), published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England
Excerpt from Josiah King's The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686), published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England

He was neither a gift bringer, nor was he associated with children. During the Victorian era, when Santa Claus arrived from America he was merged with "Old Winter", "Old Christmas" or "Old Father Christmas" to create Father Christmas, the British Santa which survives today.

The Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is based on Father Christmas.

Father Christmas is the only character who appears with the same name in fiction by both of those two famous Friends, C.S. Lewis (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), and J.R.R. Tolkien (The Father Christmas Letters)'

References

See also


Home | Up | Santa Claus | Biblical Magi | Caganer | Christkind | Companions of Saint Nicholas | Ded Moroz | Dzied Maroz | Elf | Father Christmas | Joulupukki | Julemanden | Kris Kringle | La Befana | Moş Gerilă | Mr. Bingle | Mrs. Claus | Saint Nicholas | Olentzero | Pre Nol | Santa Claus' reindeer | Ti de Nadal | Tomte | Yule Goat | Yule Lads

Christmas Guide, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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