28 Facts About Father Christmas


Father Christmas is the traditional English name for the personification of Christmas.

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The recognisably modern figure of the English Father Christmas developed in the late Victorian period, but Christmas had been personified for centuries before then.

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The Puritan-controlled English government had legislated to abolish Father Christmas, considering it papist, and had outlawed its traditional customs.

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Father Christmas's character was maintained during the late 18th and into the 19th century by the Christmas folk plays later known as mummers plays.

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Father Christmas had no particular connection with children, nor with the giving of presents, nocturnal visits, stockings, chimneys or reindeer.

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Father Christmas was often illustrated wearing a long red hooded gown trimmed with white fur.

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Many late medieval Father Christmas customs incorporated both sacred and secular themes.

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Father Christmas looked under the consecrated Laune sleeves as big as Bul-beefe.

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Father Christmas got Prentises, Servants, and Schollars many play dayes, and therefore was well beloved by them, and made all merry with Bagpipes, Fiddles, and other musicks, Giggs, Dances, and Mummings.

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Father Christmas still continued to be regarded as Christmas's presiding spirit, although his occasional earlier associations with the Lord of Misrule died out with the disappearance of the Lord of Misrule himself.

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Father Christmas appears as a character in plays of the Southern England type, being mostly confined to plays from the south and west of England and Wales.

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Thomas Hervey's The Book of Father Christmas, illustrated by Robert Seymour, exemplifies this view.

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Father Christmas's children are identified as Roast Beef and his faithful squire or bottle-holder Plum Pudding; the slender figure of Wassail with her fount of perpetual youth; a 'tricksy spirit' who bears the bowl and is on the best of terms with the Turkey; Mumming; Misrule, with a feather in his cap; the Lord of Twelfth Night under a state-canopy of cake and wearing his ancient crown; Saint Distaff looking like an old maid ; Carol singing; the Waits; and the twin-faced Janus.

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Hervey ends by lamenting the lost "uproarious merriment" of Father Christmas, and calls on his readers "who know anything of the 'old, old, very old, gray-bearded gentleman' or his family to aid us in our search after them; and with their good help we will endeavor to restore them to some portion of their ancient honors in England".

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Father Christmas was dressed in a variety of costumes and usually had holly on his head, as in these illustrations from the Illustrated London News:.

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Charles Dickens's 1843 novel A Father Christmas Carol was highly influential, and has been credited both with reviving interest in Father Christmas in England and with shaping the themes attached to it.

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Old Father Christmas continued to make his annual appearance in Christmas folk plays throughout the 19th century, his appearance varying considerably according to local custom.

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In pre-Victorian personifications, Father Christmas had been concerned essentially with adult feasting and games.

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Father Christmas had no particular connection with children, nor with the giving of presents.

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Father Christmas's dress "was a long brown robe which fell down about his feet, and on it were sewed little spots of white cloth to represent snow".

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Father Christmas's costume became more standardised, and although depictions often still showed him carrying holly, the holly crown became rarer and was often replaced with a hood.

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Father Christmas wore a great furry white coat and cap, and a long white beard and hair spoke to his hoar antiquity.

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Father Christmas bore in his hand a small Christmas tree laden with bright little gifts and bon-bons, and altogether he looked like the familiar Santa Claus or Father Christmas of the picture book.

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Father Christmas must have a white head and a long white beard, of course.

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Father Christmas should wear a greatcoat down to his heels, liberally sprinkled with flour as though he had just come from that land of ice where Father Christmas is supposed to reside.

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Father Christmas is "the personification of Christmas as a benevolent old man with a flowing white beard, wearing a red sleeved gown and hood trimmed with white fur, and carrying a sack of Christmas presents".

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Father Christmas appeared in many 20th century English-language works of fiction, including JR R Tolkien's Father Christmas Letters, a series of private letters to his children written between 1920 and 1942 and first published in 1976.

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In 1991, Raymond Briggs's two books were adapted as an animated short film, Father Christmas, starring Mel Smith as the voice of the title character.

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