Santa and Father Christmas

A youngster asked me a couple of years ago how there could be so many Santas in malls, at concerts, and on street corners.

 

Spots in Time – Gord Turner

 

A youngster asked me a couple of years ago how there could be so many Santas in malls, at concerts, and on street corners.  He was concerned about one Santa from the North Pole blossoming into Santas everywhere for about a month before Christmas.

I told him that Santa had to assign many substitute Santa Clauses.  In some cases, he had to hire surrogate Santas to sit in malls for kiddie pictures.  It got so Santa spent more time interviewing prospective Santas than making toys.

My first call from Santa to replace him occurred when I was a Grade 12 student.  I had hitched a ride to a country-school Christmas concert. Country schools had big concert programs, each grade putting on a few skits and several plays. A few precocious students quoted long poems from memory.

About two-thirds of the way through the program, a couple of parents approached me and asked if I could come outside for a bit.  They said they’d heard I was a good drama student in high school, so could I do Santa Claus for them and their kids?  After saying “no” several times, I agreed reluctantly to do it.

The only problem: there was no Santa Claus suit.  They had a Santa Claus whiskers-mask and hat but nothing else.  One guy went to his nearby truck and came back with a brown furry overcoat about two sizes too big for me.  He said, “Here, wrap yourself in this, and with the whiskers, you can be Father Christmas instead of Santa Claus.”

So I roared into the hall with my best set of “ho-hos”.  I noticed a few quizzical looks from parents, but the kids didn’t bat an eye.  They sat on my knee, told me about their dream gifts, and ran off with bags of candy.  And when it was all over, I “ho-ho’d” my way back out into the snow and to the trucks to get rid of my Father Christmas outfit.

Since then, I’ve been asked by Santa Claus to represent him at about 100 venues — from elementary schools to colleges to Christmas parties. In these later instances, I was provided with a red suit and a stunning white beard.  I was clearly a substitute Santa — not a Father Christmas throwback.

This memory of being Father Christmas so many years ago came sifting back recently as I looked at the Christmas figures my wife set out on the fireplace mantel. For years, she had been collecting Father Christmas doll-like creations, each one about three feet tall.  A few have a bit of red on them, but their beards are greyish and their robes are often a dull colour.

The European tradition of Father Christmas is a strong one, particularly in Great Britain. A similar figure with the same name (in other languages) exists in France (Père Noel), Spain (Papa Noel), Brazil (Papai Noel), Italy (Babbo Natale), Turkey (Noel Baba), and many other countries.

Originally, Father Christmas was associated with adult celebrations, not with giving presents to children.  His message as early as the 15th Century was to “make good cheer and be right merry.” In a 1686 pamphlet, Josiah King depicts Father Christmas as the personification of festive traditions. He is described as an elderly gentleman of cheerful appearance, and “his cherry cheeks appeared through his thin milk white locks.”

By mid-Victorian times (say 1865), Father Christmas had gradually blended with the traditional gift-giver St. Nicholas and the Dutch Sinterklass to give us Santa Claus with his red suit and his bag of gifts.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Castlegar Rebels to face Beaver Valley in playoff opener

The Castlegar Rebels are heading to the KIJHL playoffs.

Sexual assault stories from treeplanting camps ‘shocking but not surprising’

Contractors’ association is working with trainers to create respectful culture

Missing Nelson woman found dead

Police say there is no evidence of a crime in the death of Heather Gunderson

Sweet way to raise money for furry friends in need

Fundraiser underway until March 1 at West Kootenay Animal Clinic

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

B.C. mother, daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Leap Year means we get an extra day in February, so how are you spending it?

People online have a number of suggestions and plans on how they will be spending Saturday

Greta sticker that drew outrage in Alberta not child pornography: RCMP

X-Site Energy Services has denied having anything to do with the stickers

Bald eagle hit by train in northern B.C. has a chance of survival

The raptor has been taken to OWL in the Lower Mainland for recovery

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Co-operation crucial to stem dropping Nechako Reservoir level

Hundreds of B.C. firefighters ‘climb the wall’ for BC Lung Association

The charity fundraiser saw participants climbing up 48 storeys

Lawyer gets house arrest for possessing child porn

Maple Ridge resident gets nine-month term

Most Read