By the s the American myth had become firmly established in the popular English imagination, the nocturnal visitor sometimes being known as Santa Claus and sometimes as Father Christmas often complete with a hooded robe. So to bed my bairnies dear. Representations of the developing character at this period were sometimes labelled 'Santa Claus' and sometimes 'Father Christmas', with a tendency for the latter still to allude to old-style associations with charity and with food and drink, as in several of these Punch illustrations:.
Any residual distinctions between Father Christmas and Santa Claus largely faded away in the early years of the new century, and it was reported in , "The majority of children to-day It took many years for authors and illustrators to agree that Father Christmas's costume should be portrayed as red—although that was always the most common colour—and he could sometimes be found in a gown of brown, green, blue or white.
Father Christmas's common form for much of the 20th century was described by his entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. He is "the personification of Christmas as a benevolent old man with a flowing white beard, wearing a red sleeved gown and hood trimmed with white fur, and carrying a sack of Christmas presents". In an editorial in The Times opined that while most adults may be under the impression that [the English] Father Christmas is home-bred, and is "a good insular John Bull old gentleman", many children, "led away The classic illustration by the US artist Thomas Nast was held to be "the authorised version of how Santa Claus should look—in America, that is.
Father Christmas appeared in many 20th century English-language works of fiction, including J. Tolkien 's Father Christmas Letters , a series of private letters to his children written between and and first published in In , Raymond Briggs's two books were adapted as an animated short film, Father Christmas , starring Mel Smith as the voice of the title character.
Modern dictionaries consider the terms Father Christmas and Santa Claus to be synonymous. The name carries a somewhat socially superior cachet and is thus preferred by certain advertisers. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the Christmas character of English folklore and myth. For the correspondingly-named character in other countries and languages, see List of Christmas and winter gift-bringers by country. For other uses, see Father Christmas disambiguation.
Christmas-associated figure originating in England. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 January The English Year. London: Penguin Books. The Rise and Fall of Merry England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. A Dictionary of English Folklore.
The legend of the Christ child : a story for Christmas Eve : adapted from the German
The Stripping of the Altars. Archived from the original on 12 January Retrieved 12 January The Renaissance in Europe: A Reader. The Stations of the Sun. Costumes and Scripts in Elizabethan Theatres. University of Alberta Press. Leeds: University of Leeds BA dissertation. Archived from the original on 29 January Retrieved 14 January Archived from the original on 31 December Bullen, AH ed. History Today. Archived from the original on 15 January Official parliametary record. Archived from the original on 27 January Retrieved 16 January Quoted in Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, , ed.
Archived from the original on 28 January Retrieved 23 December Thomas Day Last. Archived from the original on 30 December Retrieved 15 January London: G Horton. Archived from the original on 26 January London: Thomas Johnson. Archived from the original on 22 January Retrieved 22 December The online transcript is from a later reprinting of Printed for P. Archived from the original on 27 October Retrieved 31 December Round about our Coal Fire, or, Christmas Entertainments. London: Roberts, J. Hassocks, Suffolk: The Harvester Press. A new dramatic entertainment, called a Christmas Tale: In five parts.
Archived from the original on 16 February Retrieved 9 February Traditional Drama Forum 6. Archived from the original on 24 September Retrieved 16 December University of Sheffield: Unpublished. Archived from the original on 30 January Folk Drama Studies Today. International Traditional Drama Conference. Archived PDF from the original on 3 February Archived from the original on 29 October Retrieved 13 March The article is also available at eprints. Archived from the original on 3 March Retrieved 26 January Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field.
Archived from the original on 1 February Retrieved 20 January The Book of Christmas: descriptive of the customs, ceremonies, traditions, superstitions, fun, feeling, and festivities of the Christmas Season. The online version listed is the American printing. Higher-resolution copies of the illustrations can also be found online Archived 14 February at the Wayback Machine.
The World Encyclopedia of Christmas. Gifts and Stockings. The Strange Case of Father Christmas. London: William Lovett. Retrieved 28 January Christmastide, its History, Festivities and Carols. But in A. Once a year during the merry month of May, the statue of St. Nicholas is brought down to the seashore of the Italian resort town and a formal ceremony is dutifully dispatched in remembrance of that extraordinary kidnapping that took place many centuries earlier. Today, Saint Nicholas is still considered to be the patron saint of seafarers, and especially of all children around the world.
It has been said that a medicinal oil still flows from the entombed bones of Saint Nicholas' corpse, used often as an ointment in treating various ailments by people of Turkey and Italy. Saint Nicholas eventually became the most popular saint of the Middle Ages.
The Feast of Saint Nicholas came to be celebrated on the vespers of December the 5th when gifts are passed out among family members, especially in the Netherlands in Holland and Flanders. Finland, with its numerous indigenous reindeer and "helper" elves, came to be associated with Saint Nicholas also, soon to be merging into Sinterklaas by the Dutch.
Today, presents given to farmers and to rural folk, as well as symbolic ceremonies with Saint Nicholas marching through snow-packed Scandinavian villages followed by livestock, beasts of burden, and reindeer commemorate lingering traditions and customs of northern Europe's prehistoric past, a history that remains intricately connected with this most enduring of saints the world has ever known. Yet it was the Dutch settlers who, during the 17th Century, brought their Sinterklaas across the Atlantic Ocean to the State of New York, founding many Dutch colonies there in the upstate region along the Hudson River.
Dutch children were told of a Sinterklaa s who sailed from a faraway land called Spain with the assistance of some dark-skinned, Arabic-speaking Moorish helpers headed by a youth called Black Peter.
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They were further told that if they were naughty and not nice, they would receive no gifts in their sabots or wooden shoes from the Christchild other than a lump of black coal. Oftentimes, Dutch children would appease Sinterklaas by putting sugar and hay in their own shoes as an offering for the patron saint's horse, much like Latin American children do to please los Reyes Magos.
And upon awakening on Christmas morning the children of the Netherlands would find their shoes having been filled with nuts, candies, and handicrafted trinkets. Many a time, Sinterklaas arrived dressed in a bishop's red robe. He usually resembled the father or oldest son of the household and knew much about little children and their ways.
He often carried a birch rod alongside of his presents in case any children had misbehaved throughout the past year. The United States, with its humble beginnings entrenched in Puritanical thought, had absolutely nothing to do with saints or with celebrations of Christmas in its earlier, formative years.
So it was not until after the American Revolution that the customs of Christmas, such as those of the Pennsylvania Dutch, began to extend out into the broader communities. This literary work was widely read and henceforth popularized Saint Nicholas throughout the United States.
This story of Bracebridge Hall, with Master Simon's insistence upon observing and practicing the antique Christmas country customs of yesteryear, served as a sober reminder to the British people of the glorious bygone holiday traditions that they were in danger of allowing to fall into total ruin and to disappear into permanent oblivion.
A contemporary of Washington Irving named John Pintard , who was a very prosperous New York City merchant and was an accomplished historian obsessed with past traditions from antiquity, somehow got the idea to honor officially Sancte Clause. Nicholas dinner, Pintard invited many prominent citizens of New York for the Yuletide banquet. He was deeply concerned about the plight of the poor and the resulting violence and unrest of the holiday season.
In his imagination, much like Washington Irving had done, John Pintard resurrected many customs of olden times, celebrations which intermeshed rich and poor alike under one roof. Many of these so-called "customs" never actually had existed before, but he invented them to suit his own purposes and for those of humankind at large. Both he and Irving had expressed a deep longing and nostalgia for more innocent days of wassailing and to rid Christmas of its season of menace from former times past.
An Ancient Holiday
Before Pintard's introduction of Saint Nicholas as the Historical Society's patron saint, and hence the official protector of the city of New York, there had been no signs or evidence of any Santa Claus rituals within the state at all. Pintard's benevolence pointed toward a need for change and social reform regarding the Christmas celebrations of his day, and in the end, Saint Nicholas Day December the 6th became an official observance in honor of the bishop saint from Myra, Turkey due to his Pintard's positive, proactive efforts.
According to Stephen Nissenbaum's masterpiece of Christmas cultural history The Battle for Christmas , John Pintard is also credited with having founded the New York Historical Society in as well as helping to establish such national holiday observances as Columbus Day, George Washington's birthday, and the Fourth of July.
This famous poem of Moore's, which was partly inspired by the custom of European colonists who celebrated the Feast of Saint Nicholas, did more to paint Santa Claus as fat and jolly with multiple reindeer and an uncanny ability to descend chimneys with presents in his sack, than did any other influence since. Moore's Saint Nick completely lacked any menace toward children who were naughty, and hence never carried a switch with which to punish them.
His was truly a loving, benevolent father figure of a Santa Claus. Clement C. Moore had deliberately kept his identity a secret due to his religious affiliations. So it wasn't until as late as , some 22 Christmases later, that Moore accepted full authorship of his poem. Unintentionally perhaps, he promoted a more secular Christmas: a holiday which included the Greek Orthodox bishop of Myra. Moore also refers to our patron saint of children informally as "St.
Nick" in his poem. This icon was to stick in North American literature, etchings, paintings, and folklore for all time to come.
Some historians believe that a Revolutionary War veteran living in upstate New York named Henry Livingston might have authored A Visit From Saint Nicholas as early as , but this has been largely discredited by most historians today. But the real credit for standardizing Santa Claus visually across North America and Europe goes to Thomas Nast , the son of an immigrant Bavarian musician who played in a German regiment band. Nast was a political cartoonist par excellence who, in , began drawing a series of Christmas drawings for Harper's Weekly. He continued his cartoonist career focusing on Christmas themes and Santa Claus oftentimes smoking a pipe with Illustrated London News well into Nast gave the American and British public a different portrait of Santa every Christmas throughout the following years to come.
The artist added new dimensions and aspects to the patron saint's lifestyle, like moving his residence to the North Pole. Nast's original Santa Claus became a combination of Moore's Saint Nicholas and Germany's gnome-like Pelz-Nicol , literally "fur-Nicholas", as he had remembered him from his recent childhood in Germany.
Nast painted a rather corpulent, rotund Santa, thus reflecting a growing and abundantly rising 19th Century wealthy upper class. This one artist, with his indefatigable genius for drawing his 19th Century black ink sketches, firmly established our Santa Claus by bringing him into every American household by the late s. This is the image most familiar to our modern children of the United States and Canada today.
In the United States, Kris Kringle is become a corruption of the German Kristkind , having now become almost synonymous with the term Santa Claus itself , thanks in large part to Hollywood's popular movie Miracle on 34th Street. Only Holland has retained his original name of Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus , since, has come to represent and embody generosity, happiness, and the protection of all of our world's children. In the Southern Hemisphere and the warmer climes of December, Father Christmas is become the patron saint of many a child. A somewhat vague and obscure Father Christmas had long existed in Northern Europe as a folk figure, especially in England, Scotland, and Wales.
But dear old Father Christmas was driven asunder by that Puritan ban on Christmas celebrations in the 17th Century, only to rear his contented head again for a brief time during the reign of Queen Victoria in the 19th Century. Neither the jolly old elf of Santa Claus nor the original ascetic in Saint Nicholas, this Father Christmas of the Middle Ages was a far different figure altogether.
Father Christmas never was to become a Christian religious figure, but symbolized rather those worldly secular pleasures that came from remoter pagan times out of a more distant pre-Christian past. He is often portrayed with a bowl of hot steaming crab apple punch or is seen beside a burning Yule log. Charles Dickens' Spirit of Christmas Present appears to be an adequate representation of him. His attire, befitting of the warmer temperatures in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa during the Yuletide season, consists of a green robe with a holly or ivy wreath placed atop his head.
Other images of him from paintings by Metsu and by the Dutch artist Jan Steen indicate this pagan father figure wearing a brown smock, carrying a torch to illumine his path, or porting a lute. In old Czechoslovakia, children believed that Svaty Mikulas descended from heaven on a golden cord supported by a benevolent angel. Upon awakening on Christmas morning, Czech children would immediately gather at the breakfast table to recite their prayers of thankfulness, and ask if they had behaved well that year. If they had, Svaty Mikulas rewarded them with a present.
Following right behind them was a village townsman wearing a goat's head with another villager masked as a demon with a birch switch, a threatening gesture for the young Swiss misbehaves. In Denmark, another happy gift-giver named Julemanden carries a sack full of goodies and is drawn by reindeer like Saint Nicholas. This patron saint of Scandinavian children has elves or helpers called Juul Nisse.
They are said to have originated from the attics inside of Danish houses or barns in the farm fields. During the night before Christmas, the children of Denmark put out a saucer of milk with rice pudding for the elves. Come morning time, the young children are thrilled to find their plates left empty, having fed the Juul Nisse , thus rewarding them for their annual chore and kindness. Jola Sveinar is the wintertide gift-giver of Icelandic children, while Jultomten is the juvenile patron saint of Sweden.
During the time when the Tudor King Henry the Eighth was seizing the monasteries, the Abbot of Glastonbury hoped by a tactful gesture to appease his sovereign. He had a Christmas pie baked wherein he concealed the title deeds of several of his manors. This tasty holiday pastry he dutifully dispatched to the King in the charge of his steward J. It is not altogether clear whether this Yuletide dessert was a mince pie which at the time consisted of minced meat or was a fruit pie of sorts, for Christmas pie had been forbidden by the higher authorities at the time.
William Shakespeare , the greatest and most influential Elizabethan playwright and poet of our English language, had this literary observation of this most sacred of holidays:. Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated, The bird of dawning singeth all night long: And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad, The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike, No fairy takes nor witch hath power to charm, So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
So unruly Yuletide frolic and displays of public drunkenness during the darkness of wintertide had become prevalent. At times, the peace and security of respectable households and neighborhoods in both England and America were at stake. At this juncture in history, Christmas had little to do with family from within and all to do with misrule and frivolity from without. Some of this was due in part to the Christmas season having been traditionally held for twelve nights for so many previous centuries. Another part of this was from a natural reaction to the Puritanical banning of Christmas celebrations in England from the century before.
This allowed for Christmas to merge with and to become associated with familial tranquility once and for all, no longer to be associated with public revelry nor outside nuisance and raucous. Poinsette, brought the first official red and green flowers back to the United States at Christmas time. Due to the colors of the flower closely resembling that of the holly and the ivy , these flowers eventually became christened poinsettias.
During the period approximately between to , Christmas was becoming a holiday to lavish upon children. From onward, Christmas had become a more colorfully decorous and family-centered affair, with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, holly wreaths, home visiting, and church-going accompanied by new patterns of consumption that both incorporated and displaced the holiday's prior discordant elements.
Up until the end of the 19th Century when fires blazed in open hearths in the English countryside, no Christmas Eve was complete without the bringing in of the Yule log. Like so many other Christmas symbols, this too goes far back into our remote cultural past. According to the sagas of the Norsemen and Vikings of Scandinavia well before the time of Christ, the sun was a spinning wheel of fire, known as hweol , that approached during summertime and receded during the wintry months. Northern Yuletide festivals were grounded in keeping warm inside and safe from the harsh elements outside, from the demons of inclement weather and icy storms.
As the days became longer in the Northern Hemisphere come January, huge bonfires blazed to keep the populace warm. Animals were slaughtered and buried under the snow pack for future storage. The Norsemen began to burn a Yule log and kept it burning both day and night during the darkest days of the winter solstice, mainly for light and warmth to counteract the wintry freeze. After having been burned for twelve successive days and nights in festive revelry, the log was finally extinguished in favor of longer days and warmer nights.
Then a brand or large piece of the log was saved to ignite the Yule log for the forthcoming winter of the following year.
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Thus, the rekindled brand symbolized the continuance of life and survival for at least one more year. In medieval times, the log to be burned for the forthcoming year was selected on Candlemas, February 2nd, and was then set out to dry during the coming spring. Logs that were used from ash trees came to be called ashen faggot. Another tree to be used was the oak. The Druids, who had formerly placed candles on branches of trees and cut mistletoe at the winter solstice, burned a Yule log as well.
Eventually, with the continued disappearance of the fireplace in the home due to continued modernization in home heating and electricity, the tradition of the Yule log burning was soon to become extinct. In Robert L. May, a copywriter and publicist for Montgomery Ward Department stores, wrote a promotional children's book regarding an ostracized reindeer who suffered from a glowing red nose.
In his book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer , May turned the reindeer's handicap into an asset for Santa by allowing him to "guide his sleigh tonight" with his "shiny nose" serving much like a searchlight. This allowed Rudolph to fly into the fertile imaginations of millions of North American children and youngsters thereafter. A decade later, in a theme song on Rudolph composed by Johnny Marks hit the radio air waves and instantly popularized the flying deer throughout America.
This song was first performed by the "Singing Cowboy" Gene Autry. Two years later in , a full color cartoon by Max Fleischer animated a needy Santa Claus with his special reindeer Rudolph onto the silver screen. May, much like Moore, had little idea of the impending icon that he had created for many a Christmas holiday season yet to come. Christmas shopping has since become a yearly credit card buying frenzy. Many historians agree that December the 25th originally honored the birth of a Roman pagan god and "savior" called Mithra , an unconquered Persian astrotheological sun-god.
This precise wintry date was to become to the Christians the Feast Day of the Nativity. The pagan Roman emperor Aurelian had proclaimed December 25th as Natalis Solis Invicti , or the festival of the invincible, eternal Sun. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration.
Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter? It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by and to England by the end of the sixth century.
By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.
By the Middle Ages , Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in , they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas.
By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday. The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in , were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From to , the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.
After the American Revolution , English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the s peaked American interest in the holiday? The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.
The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early s.
As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated.