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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Father Christmas

In England, Father Christmas is the personification of Christmas, in the same way as Santa Claus is in the United States Although the characters are now synonymous, historically Father Christmas and Santa Claus have separate entities, stemming from unrelated traditions.

First written about in Tudor England and pre-dating the first recording of Santa Claus, Father Christmas was a jolly well nourished man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food and wine and revelry.

A similar figure with the same name (in translation) exists in many other countries, including Canada and France (Père Noël), Spain (Papá Noel, Padre Noel) and almost all Hispanic South America (Papá Noel).

The American version of the tradition, Santa Claus, is derived from Bishop Nicholas of Myra who died in Asia Minor aged 73 on December 6, 343. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. After his death, it became known that Bishop Nicholas had also secretly provided dowries for numerous poor brides-to-be.

Saint Nicholas is also said to have helped three poor girls by throwing purses of money through their window. The idea of Santa Claus coming down chimneys to deliver presents has its origin in that story.

Many of the modern ideas of Santa Claus became canon from a poem written by university professor, Dr. Clement Moore, for his children called "A Visit from St. Nicholas." The poem was never meant for publication, for he feared he would be ridiculed for writing children's verse. A friend, however, sent a copy to the Troy, New York, Sentinel where it was published on December 23, 1823. Most of Santa's modern attributes are established in this poem, such as riding in a reindeer-pulled sleigh that lands on the roof, entering through the chimney, and having a bag full of toys.

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