Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Claus vs Father Christmas

When I was little, he was called Father Christmas, NEVER Santa Claus. Santa was, we were told, what children in America called him, and Saint Nicholas, what people in Europe called him. He was all the same person, but he was drawn and portrayed in different ways. Father Christmas usually didn't have a hat (when seeing him in real life. He did on cards and on the big statue of him in the mall), he had a wreath of holly or ivy on his head, he also often

wore a robe or a hood. He often wore glasses. Sometimes he had pants and black boots, other times an ankle length robe or coat. He seemed a bit more mystical though he was still jolly. Over the years, the increased American media, and the Internet, has led to people in shops calling him 'Santa' on signs, and children saying 'Santa' because of the tv shows they're watching which have him in it. My own brother is saying 'Santa', and he's 21. But he also insists on saying 'cookies' and 'candy' instead of biscuits and lollies just to piss me off- he likes saying the American words in a 'funny' way, like he's imitating a tv show.

This change makes me sad. I'm not entirely sure why, maybe because it's another example of us losing our uniqueness. A sign of commercialism, and mass media, and almost brainwashing.
'Father Christmas' puts a nice, calm image and feeling in my head. 'Santa Claus' somehow does not. It almost doesn't seem like the same person, though I know the idea is the same.
I will find it weird if my children eagerly await 'Santa' where I was excited for 'Father Christmas'. A weird culture shock in my own country and within 20 years. I guess I can still call him Father Christmas with my own children.

People right now are complaining that Santa is too fat, and is a bad example. Father Christmas (and Saint Nicholas for that matter) were never traditionally hugely obese (sure in some books they were, but the ones I saw in shops, were not). Maybe a bit of a belly but it didn't usually require shoving 3 pillows up your front. Maybe we should go back to the look they had in the 80s rather than the look they're having now. Then they still look Jolly, rather than like Gandalf dressed in red.

What did the Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, etc etc, look like when you were little? And do you still call him the same thing? (Especially if you're not American). What do you think about that?

The actual Father Christmas of my childhood, from the John Martin's Christmas Pageant. I visited him in John Martin's every year.

Somehow him not having a hat makes a difference. And though he looks reasonably similar to the American one here, except not having a hat, most of the Santas around the place that I saw as a kid had hoods, long robes (sometimes over the top of the belted suit), no hat, glasses, long hair (not just a long beard) and all sorts.

*sigh* I hate change.


  1. Saint Nicholas (who was a bishop) is coming to the kids in Germany on 6th December, together with Knecht Ruprecht. Knecht Ruprecht comes to give the bad kids a birching, while St. Nicholas brings little gifts for the nice kids.
    Here's a photo of both of them the way they usually looked like:
    Within time Saint Nicholas changed and now he looks like Santa Claus :-(

    On Christmas it always was the Christ Child who brought the presents. I can't remember Santa Claus or Father Christmas bringing the gifts.
    But nowadays many kids don't even know the Christ Child anymore.
    My daughter asked me two years ago who's bringing the presents as we've been to Australia and there was Santa Claus instead of the Christ Child at the mall.
    So I told her that Santa Claus/Father Christmas is helping the Christ Child because there are sooo many kids in the world.
    But at our home I still talk about the Christ Child and my little daughter (she's 5) still believes in the Christ Child.
    This Christmas she was totally into the magic of Christmas. And it was just great to see how excited she was about everything happening :-)

  2. What does the Christ Child look like? Surely not a little baby Jesus? Is it the same thing as Jesus?

    I'm glad someone else understands where I'm coming from and I don't mind at all if you don't want Father Christmas.

  3. The Christ Child isn't the same as baby Jesus.
    Most people picture it like that: A little angel, a child, with blonde curly hair.
    In my mind the Christ Child is female, even in German it's "das Christkind" (das is the neutral form). She's wearing a white dress and has little wings.

    So it isn't the same as Jesus. The name might has it's origin in the Holy Christ, but as far as I know that isn't for sure. I tried to find out the origin and all I could find out was that it might has sth to do with Martin Luther and the Protestants. I wasn't able to find articles in English, only in German.
    Even the English wikipedia entry concerning the Christ Child is wrong as it says that the Christ Child is the same as baby Jesus.

  4. Interesting! Thanks for that. And do you have her or him in various shopping centres, since you mentioned that they had Father Christmas instead of the Christ Child in Australian shopping centres?

    And she leaves presents anonymously on Christmas day, or what? How does it work for the children?

  5. No there aren't any Christ Childs in shopping centres. But we have Father Christmas there - and I really don't like it.
    Another reason why I needed to tell my daughter that Father Christmas is helping the Christ Child.

    And yes, the Christ Child leaves the presents anonymously on Christmas Eve - we're celebrating on the 24th.
    The kids have to stay out of the room while the Christ Child comes and brings all the presents.
    Some parents, including myself, tell the kids that the Christ Child can't be seen by kids and that the parents can communicate with the Christ Child.
    At our home it's the Christ Child and me placing all the presents around the Christmas tree.
    This year my daughter was very upset that she wasn't allowed to see the Christ Child. She really believes in all the Christmas stuff :-)


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