Kanakaloka. Joulupukki. De Kerstman. Shengdan Laoren. Black Peter. Any of thesenames sound familiar? No? How about Sinter Klaas? Hoteiosho? Pere Noel? Anyone?
Time’s up! They’re all names for Father Christmas. In North America he is better known as Santa Claus but he’s been part of European Christmas traditions for centuries.
Ben Johnson’s 1616 play, “Christmas His Masque” introduces us to a personification of Christmas: Attir’d in round Hose, long Stockings, a close Doublet, a high crownd Hat with a Broach, a long thin beard, a Truncheon, little Ruffes, white shoes, his Scarffes, and Garters tyed crosse”, and announces “Why Gentlemen, doe you know what you doe? ha! would you ha’kept me out? Christmas, old Christmas?”
More familiar to us is the character the Ghost of Christmas Past in Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. He’s the first of the spirits to visit Scrooge & takes him on a tour of his past.
Clement Clark Moore gave us the Santa Claus we know today in “A Visit From St. Nicholas” or as it’s more commonly known “”Twas the Night Before Christmas”.
“A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!” ~Clement Clarke Moore
The reply by newspaperman Francis Pharcellus Church to a a little 8 year old girl who wanted to know once & for all whether Santa Claus was really, truly real is perhaps the sentimental favorite. The column is history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, having appeared in dozens of languages. Little Virginia O’ Hanlon grew up to be a successful educator within the New York City School system. She credits Church’s reply with helping to shape the direction of her life in a positive direction.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!” ~Francis P. Church
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