Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Father Christmas

On the Eleventh day of our Tudor Christmas, we will discuss Father Christmas. Santa Clause, as we know him today, we present in Tudor times, despite what many believe today. He is not a purely Victorian invention. Rather, he dates back to the Middle Ages where he was known as "Lord Christmas." A poem from about 1485 says,
"Goday, goday, my lord Sire Christëmas, goday!
Goday, Sire Christëmas, our king,
for ev'ry man, both old and ying,
is glad and blithe of your coming;
Goday!"
In Tudor England, Lord Christmas wore a long green robe trimmed in fur. Eventually, this evolved to the red and white suit we know so well today. Though he was present, Lord Christmas wasn't central to Tudor Christmas celebrations. It wasn't until Stuart and Victorian England that Father Christmas became a more central character in these festivities.

17th Century England, not long after the Tudors, had a more recognizable version known as Father Christmas. He represented the "Old Christmas" of times past. With the coming of the Commonwealth, the Puritans banned all Christmas celebrations. "Old Father Christmas" came to represent a nostalgic  Christmas of the "old days," such as those celebrated by the Tudors.

St. Nicholas, a 4th Century Christain Saint, was eventually merged with Father Christmas to form our modern Santa Clause. St. Nicholas was certainly known in Tudor times. He was a wealthy Greek orphan who was raised in a religious home by his uncle, and later became a priest. He is depicted as an older man with a white beard. While traveling, St. Nicholas came upon a house where a man had murdered three boys and was trying to pass off their remains as ham. St. Nicholas saw through the ploy and brought the boys back to life. Another story tells of St. Nicholas secretly leaving money for a poor man who did not have the means to provide a proper dowry for his daughters (meaning they would probably have to resort to prostitution). Eventually, the legends around St. Nicholas had him leaving money and gifts for those who needed them. As stated before, though Father or Lord Christmas wasn't central to a Tudor Christmas, St. Nicholas was well known, an eventually combined with the Medieval Lord Christmas to form our modern day Santa Clause.
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