23 December 2011

17th: Father Christmas: The man who's knee you will always want to sit on

I know I am just a tad behind with my advent calendar thing, but I've been a bit of a Father Christmas for everyone sorting out presents. Except for the fluffy beard and the big tummy though, well I may have that after all those mince pies. I don't know how Father Christmas does it, sorting all those gifts out and flying around the world in just one night and this is all without Amazon remember. That man deserves a mince pie.

Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Joulupukki or just the big man in the red coat, we all know who he is. But it has only been just over a hundred years that we know him like he is today. Many people have a reason why his coat used to be different colours. Lots of people say it used to be green and then they changed it on Victorian cards so it stood out more, others said it was the Coca Cola company who changed it. I just think he saw the programme 10 Years Younger and decided to give himself a makeover. Or maybe in his green suit he was clashing with the Christmas tree to much.

So where has the legend of Father Christmas evolved from? Well sit comfortable, grab yourself a mince pie and get ready to learn about our number 1 man, apart from Christian Louboutin that is.

St Nicholas who was a bishop in the 4th century in Myra, Turkey is famous for his kindness to children and genorosity to the poor. He travelled in his red robes and there is a legend that one day he wanted to give money to a family in secret, so he dropped some gold coins down the chimney, and they landed in a girl's sock. He is the patron saint for everyone from sailors to children and to some people he is known as 'Nikolaos the Wonderorker', well that's a lot better nickname then shorty or beardy weirdy isn't it.
After the Bishop died, the legend of him grew and he is still remembered on the 6th December, the day he died in some countries. The stories of St,Nicholas (Sinter Klass) were spread by Dutch settlers in America where he became known as Santa Claus.

Now we know Santa Claus and Father Christmas as the same person but they wern't, the legend of him didn't arrive in Britain until the Norman invasion in 1066. But we didn't wait that long to have an excuse to stuff our face with food, we already had our own legend.
Spirit of Christmas PresentThe earliest Father Christmas appeared during ancient British mid-winter festivals. He wasn't known as Father Christmas then, but he was a popular pagan figure who represented the coming of spring. He wore a long green hooded cloak and a wreath of holly, ivy or mistletoe. The assosciation of holly and mistletoe and his ability to lift people's spirits are what we have taken from this ancient Father Christmas and made them part of our own.

In the fifth and sixth centuries when Britain fell under Saxon rule, Father Christmas took on the characteristics of the Saxon Father Time also known as King Winter or King Frost.

Someone would dress up as King Winter and was welcomed into homes, where he would sit near the fire and be given something to eat or drink. I guess that's where the tradition of leaving mince pies, beer and a carrot out for Father Christmas came from. By being kind to King Winter, people thought they would receive something good in return, such as a mild winter. This is when Father Christmas because assosciated with giving things, and the millions of letters to him asking for a Nintendo 3DS began.

When the Vikings invaded Britain, their traditions came with them. The 20th to the 31st of December
Santa Claus
1881 Harpers Weekly Image was known as Jultid. The name lives on today as Yueltide. During Jultid Odin, Norse God Odin took on the character of Jul, a large ederly man with a white beard who visited earth and wore a long blue hooded cloak. He rode through the world on his eight legged horse Sleipnir giving gifts to the good and punishments to the bad. Our Father Christmas like Odin is fat and has the ability to automatically know whether people have been good or bad, Derren Brown eat your heart out. He can also travel magically and to lots of places in a short time like Odin did.

With the arrival of the Normans and the story of St Nicholas the creation of the lovely magical character we welcome down our chimneys every year was nearly complete. The first mention of Father Christmas is found in a 15th century carol 'Welcome, my lord Christmas.' From here Father Christmas represents the cheeriness of Christmas and benevolence.

In Tudor and Stuart times Sir Christmas or Captain Christmas was called upon to preside over Christmas entertainment in large houses. We got out first image of Father Christmas in 1628 when artist Thomas Nabess drew him as an old man in a fury coat and cape. Seeing that drawing I already wanna sit on his knee and tell him what I want for Christmas.

Father Christmas along with Christmas was banned by the Puritans in 1644 because of the reference to the pagan figure. He went underground though and was popular in Mummers Plays coming on at the beginning of the play saying 'In comes I, old Father Christmas, be welcome or be I not? I hope old Father Christmas, will never be forgot.' Well he got his wish there. I can't really see him on the X Factor though can you? He also appeared in newspapers under the name of Old Christmas and was used as a representation of what people felt about Christmas and what they missed. I'm surprised he didn't have a Twitter account.

Victorian Christmas Card SantaDue to Christmas being banned in 1644, when Queen Victoria was on the throne no one had heard of him, sadly they didn't have Wikipedia or Facebook to stalk him then. No Christmas Crackers, No Christmas cards, no holidays off work or no Only Fools and Horses on the tv, I'm glad I wasn't around then. Thankfully the lovely Queen re-introduced it and the industrial revolution and more wealth helped Christmas, carols and Father Christmas become the magical celebration that it is today, even if the main present was an orange. The Victorian Father Christmas was a mix of all the legends and stories and was drawn as a jolly old figure in a long, hooded coat. On Christmas cards his coat wasn't distinctively red yet, he was drawn with many different coloured coats including red, blue, purple, green or brown. Not leopard print or zebra yet though.

Victorian Christmas Card Santa
So how did he get from an old man in a purple coat to a jolly fat man in a red suit. Well we owe it all to Clement Clarke Moore who in 1822 described what he thought Father Christmas looked like in his poem called 'A Visit from St Nicholas' which is now often referred to 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'. The poem did not become well known until it was depicted in a series of engravings in the 1860s by Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly. What we know about St.Nicholas in the poem combines all the legend and stories. New ideas were introduced ie. Father Christmas lives in the North Pole, has a list of good and bad children and reads letters from children. Letters to him were posted up the chimney, that was people had to resort to before Postman Pat and e-mail. It was in 1931 with the Coca Cola's Company's advert that helped to make red the standard colour of his coat. I bet Father Christmas was glad, a whole wardrobe of different coloured furred coats is pretty expensive and there was no eBay remember.

Victorian Christmas Card Santa
 It is a tradition in some families to read the poem on Christmas Eve, or if you are in my household you watch Top of the Pops 2 and eat a box of biscuits. The poem is lovely and I suggest you all read it. So instead of making you have to all find it yourself, here it is, so snuggle up everyone and get ready to feel all excited and like a little kid again.

Victorian Christmas Card Santa
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must b
e St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His e
yes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Second Hand Rose 


  1. once again, i learned quite a few things from reading your post! i love reading about the history of what seems to be familiar concepts such as santa claus. ;)

    i wish you a wonderful weekend! and happy holidays!

    <3, Mimi

  2. I always learn loads from your fab posts! Hope you had a lovely Christmas!

  3. what a cute blog!
    i'm following you dear :)

    check out my new site http://karobrel.blogspot.com


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