Friday, October 25, 2019

The Victorian Santa Claus

Most Americans think that the first British 'Santa Claus' was 'Father Christmas', but not so much. Initially, Father Christmas had no connection to gifts, children, or December 24. He was usually portrayed as dressed in a long green coat (sometimes  shown as blue)  and was seen as the sign of the onset of spring at the end of the dark cold winter. His persona was part of the midwinter festival. 
Father Christmas

The origins of Father Christmas date back to the Vikings and their god Odin. 
Image result for images of god odin

The name Odin means, "Master of Ecstasy". But, history shows he was a bit of a conundrum.. He was the patron of rulers . . . and outlaws. He was seen as a War god, but had effeminate features. Folklorist Margaret Baker maintains that "the appearance of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, whose day is the 25th of December, owes much to Odin, the old blue-hooded, cloaked, white-bearded Giftbringer of the north, who rode the midwinter sky on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir, visiting his people with gifts."


Over time Father Christmas ebbed in popularity. As Santa Claus became more popular, the 2 were often confused. But in truth Father Christmas's roots, ironically, never came from Christmas. There are other stories that tie "Father Christmas" to the holiday and as the late night giver of gifts. Eventually his green robes became red. By the 1900's Father Christmas was a figure of the past. 


But when and where did 'Santa' come from?

The British idea of 'Santa Claus' actually came from a Dutch character. The Dutch children believed that "Sinter Klaas" (Dutch for 'St. Nicholas') would leave candy and small toys in their wooden shoes left by the hearths on Christmas Eve. 


Some time in the 1870's Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus. At some point the reindeer and sleigh were added to the story.  Then thanks to Clement Moore, Thomas Nast, and Haddon Sundblom - the transition was complete.

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