Definitions

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

Father Christmas is a name used in many English speaking countries, for the gift-bringing figure of Christmas. The same figure with the same name exists in other countries (in that country's language), such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Romania (Romance countries). The character is similar to, and in some places such as Australia, interchangeable with Santa Claus. Although "Father Christmas" and "Santa Claus" have for all practical purposes been merged, historically the characters were different.

History

The symbolic personification of Christmas as a merry old figure begins in the early 17th century, in the context of resistance to Puritan criticism of observation of the Christmas feast. He is "old" because of the antiquity of the feast itself, which its defenders saw as a good old Christian custom that should be kept. Allegory was popular at the time, and so "old Christmas" was given a voice to protest his exclusion, along with the form of a rambunctious, jolly old man.

The earliest recorded personification of Christmas appears to be Ben Jonson's creation in Christmas his Masque dating from December 1616, in which Christmas appears "attir'd in round Hose, long Stockings, a close Doublet, a high crownd Hat with a Broach, a long thin beard, a Truncheon, little Ruffes, white shoes, his Scarffes, and Garters tyed crosse", and announces "Why Gentlemen, doe you know what you doe? ha! would you ha'kept me out? Christmas, old Christmas?" Later, in a masque by Thomas Nabbes, The Springs Glorie produced in 1638, "Christmas" appears as "an old reverend gentleman in furred gown and cap".

The character continued to appear over the next 250 years, appearing as Sir Christmas, Lord Christmas, or Father Christmas, the latter becoming the most common. A book dating from the time of the Commonwealth, The Vindication of CHRISTMAS or, His Twelve Yeares' Observations upon the Times involved "Old Christmas" advocating a merry, alcoholic Christmas and casting aspersions on the charitable motives of the ruling Puritans.

The traditional Father Christmas was neither a gift bringer, nor associated with children. However, during the Victorian era, when Santa Claus arrived from America, he has been merged with the character called "Sir Christmas", "Lord Christmas" or "Old Father Christmas" to create Father Christmas, the British Santa which survives today. Nowadays, most Britons use the expressions Father Christmas and Santa Claus as synonyms.

Names in various countries

The term "Father Christmas" is used in translation in many countries and languages. "Father Christmas" (and in some cases baby Jesus) is used in the following countries or languages:

See also

References

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