How the man in red came to be

Father Christmas is also known as Santa Claus. Photo: Picsoi.

The evolution of Father Christmas is a rich in fascinating one.

To many, the man has become synonymous with the joy of receiving gifts most wanted. Dressed in his best red and white ensemble, riding around the world on a sleigh pulled by his trusty nine reindeer, Father Christmas is nothing like he first was.

The man behind the notion of Father Christmas is St Nicholas, a bishop from the fourth century who was very rich. He was also a very kind man who had a reputation of always helping those in need. The story goes that one night, St Nicholas dropped a bag filled with gold down a poor man’s chimney so he could pay for his oldest daughter’s dowry. The man then caught St Nicholas doing this kind gesture. He begged the lucky man not to tell anyone about it. However, word quickly spread and every time a kind gesture was done thereafter, it was thought that it was St Nicholas’ doing.

According to a Reader’s Digest article, a carol written by Richard Smart in the 15th century makes the earliest known English reference to a human embodiment of Christmas. The carol described the man as being neither old nor a father. It merely called him Nowell and Sir Christemas. He was an adult figure, who gave out alcohol and encouraged people to ‘make good cheer and be right merry’ in celebration of the news of Christ’s birth. After the prohibition of raucous ceremonies, Sir Christemas had to mellow down a little bit and’ from there on’ became Father Christmas.

Sir Christemas evolved into a respectable man who took part in festivities, just not in excess.

In the early times of the USA, Dutch settlers brought to the country their stories of St Nicholas who they called Sinterklaas and later became Santa Claus. Through the years, both Father Christmas and Santa Claus grew to resemble each other greatly.

Now children around the world either receive gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. In a few countries, gifts are given on St Nicholas Eve which falls on 5 December.

The legend is known all across the world as a man who gives to many and has a checklist of who was naughty or nice throughout the year. He travels from the North Pole to jump down a home’s chimney and delivers the gift one wants the most.

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