The Real Father Christmas
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The History of Father Christmas.

Following the protestant reformation Christmas suffered an unrelenting decline pushed to isolated rural areas. In these rural areas however a rich and varied collection of Christmas customs existed including Christmas plays. In these plays it was extremely common to find our old friend Father Christmas acting as narrator or master of ceremonies.

Following the industrial revolution there was an increased interest in the apparently lost pastoral paradise of rural England. A past that apparently been decimated by the mills, mines and factories. In reality this past was as hard as the present. This desire to restore these simple pleasures led to a phenomena some have called the “Merry England Craze”. Christmas was no longer seen as one factor in a sectarian dispute but a something of great value.

This was similarly felt in America, where writers such as Washington Irving waxed lyrical about Christmas past in New York, specifically the presence of the Dutch gift giver Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas. Influenced by this resurgence in interest Clement Moore composed perhaps the most famous Christmas poem of all time “A visit from St Nicholas” describing for the first time the modern Santa Claus.

In Britain Christmas was firmly brought back into every day consciousness by the works of Charles Dickens who portrayed the gritty reality of British poverty in detail, a poverty that could be transformed by the central message of Christmas.

Christmas took off again. Poems such as “A visit from St Nicholas” created a desire in the British mind for a gift giver, a figure like St Nicholas who would deliver presents on Christmas Eve. So slowly this became Father Christmas. The leader of the feast, the spirit of Christmas Joy, given a new role as friend to children.

The role of Coca-Cola in transforming our Father Christmas to just another name for Santa Claus is massively over stated but, as film and advertising became increasingly international images merged. Confusingly you can know see Father Christmas dressed as Santa Claus in mummers plays and the like, a very odd sight indeed.


An increasingly Santa-Esque Father Christmas.


 
A Green Father Christmas - Now as gift giver.
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