According to Wikipedia, ‘The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas who was a fourth-century Greek bishop’.
History.com suggests he began life as someone else (a monk), sometime else (280 A.D.) and somewhere else (Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey).
Legend has it that the original St Nicholas was particularly kind to children and was also very shy, so much so that, wanting to give money to a family in secret, he dropped some gold coins down the chimney, where they landed in a girl’s stocking.
Another website, TimeTravel-Britain.com, suggests that, although most people consider Father Christmas to be the same person as Santa Claus, they are in fact different people. According to their sources the American Santa Claus originated from Dutch settlers’ stories about Sinter Klass, the Dutch name for St Nicholas who didn’t ‘arrive’ in Britain until after the Norman invasion.
By this time, our Father Christmas had already been around for centuries as he appeared during ancient British mid-winter festivals. He wasn’t known as Father Christmas then, but as a pagan figure who represented the coming of spring.
(You can see why we were put off writing this blog).
Interestingly, the original Father Christmas was said to wear a long, green hooded cloak and a wreath of holly, ivy or mistletoe. And all three continue to play an important part in Christmas today.
It seems that we can then thank variously, the Saxons, Vikings, Tudors and Stuarts for helping morph the original pagan figure into the jolly old man that we know of today ,who is associated with good cheer and benevolence to all, (although the party-pooping Puritans tried to ban him and forced him underground for a while).
Centuries later, the Victorians embraced him with a vengeance before he had his final makeover in the 20th Century, where he was heavily influenced by the Americans. In fact, we can thank the Coca Cola company for giving him his red robes; until the company published an advertisement in 1931 he had appeared in coats of various colours but since then he has always dressed in red.
So there you have it. Today’s Father Christmas is made up of a shy priest and a pagan figure whose wardrobe was chosen by a soft drinks manufacturer. He may be weird but he’s still very welcome wherever he visits.