The earliest Father Christmas figure appeared during ancient British mid-winter festivals. He was a general pagan figure who represented the coming of spring. He would wear a long, green hooded cloak and a wreath of holly, ivy or mistletoe (he was possibly somewhat derived form the Spirit Of Wildwood) It is the association with holly and mistletoe, and his ability to lift people's spirits, that we retain from this ancient Father Christmas. Under Saxon rule in the fifth and sixth centuries, Father Christmas took on the characteristics of the Saxon Father Time, also known as King Frost or King Winter. Someone would dress up as King Winter and be welcomed into homes, where he would sit near the fire and be given food and drink.
He absorbed Jultid Odin’s characteristics after the Viking invasion; for instance, the ability to tell automatically whether people had been good or bad. Odin could also travel magically and be in many places over a short span of time. The idea of Santa’s reindeer may come from Odin’s magical eight-legged horse Sleipnir and the gift giving from his sack of bounty distributed to the worthy. This guise of Odin was portrayed as a sage with a white beard and hair wearing a hooded robe.
In Tudor/Stuart times Sir Christmas or Captain Christmas was called upon to preside over the Christmas entertainment in large houses. In 1638, Thomas Nabbes illustrated him as an old man in a furred coat and cap.
Nicholas of Myra was a C4th bishop from Lycia (modern-day Turkey). He was said to give secret gifts of cash to those in need (on one occasion giving money to a man so that he didn’t have to sell his daughters into prostitution), thereby making him the Patron Saint of prostitutes. He is also the patron saint of children and sailors.
In the Netherlands he became known as Sinterklaas and when Dutch families emigrated to America, they took him along, and by the 19th century he was known as Santa Claus. His popularity was assured by Clement Clarke Moore’s poem ‘A visit from St. Nicholas’. The American character of Kris Kringle is one and the same as Santa Claus; however, Kris Kringle is actually a corruption of Christkindl - the Christ Child. In England, the Pagan figure named 'Old Father Time' or 'King Frost' gradually became 'Sir Christmas' by the Middle Ages; and, briefly during the Tudor era, 'Captain Christmas'.
Until 2006, Santa Claus was top of the Forbes Fictional Rich List – it was reckoned that he must have unlimited funds to be able to give toys to all the children in the world each year. Forbes speculated that the reason for his philanthropy is that he is tormented by his infinite wealth, and wants to give it away. On the other hand, they also noted that his elves had to put up with low wages, lack of health care and the harsh ways of ‘Claws’, including exploiting under-age children who had been ‘naughty’. They also noted his dark side: gifts of coal to some children, and ill-treatment of reindeer.
Santa had to be removed from the list in 2006 – ‘Daddy’ Warbucks (from Annie) replaced him - because Forbes was 'bombarded' by letters from outraged children insisting that Santa is real. They said: ‘We don't claim to have settled the ongoing controversy concerning Claus' existence, but after taking into account the physical evidence -toys delivered, milk and cookies devoured - we felt it was safer to remove him from consideration’.
The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
According to tradition, St. Nicholas restored to life 3 small boys who had been cut up and pickled in a tub to be served as bacon.
The world's largest gathering of Santa Clauses in Newtown, Wales, in 2004 ended in a mass brawl.
I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighbourhood after dark.
Until the mid-19th century, Santa Claus always rode a donkey.
Santa Claus has his own postal code in Canada: HOH OHO.
Santa Claus has the right idea: visit people once a year.