Father Christmas Around the World

Christmas is celebrated the world over as a magical time of the year that brings families together in a celebration of goodwill. Each country has its own traditions, myths and legends associated with this very special time of year.

Here in the UK, Father Christmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival to celebrate the forthcoming Spring. Dressed in green, Old Winter or Sir Christmas as he was known would wander from house to house feasting with families as a sign of goodwill rather than delivering gifts. It wasn't until the Victorian times that he was seen in red on Christmas cards, as a result of both the charming description of him as popularised by the writer Clement Clarke Moore in his much loved poem of 1822 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and the red bishop robes as worn by St Nicholas.

The name Santa Claus was created in America when the Dutch settlers, who founded New York, brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas, the Dutch name for St Nicholas, a fourth century, red robed, Turkish bishop who cared for the poor and was said to be a patron saint of children. Santa Claus is the American pronunciation of Sinter Klaas.

Orphaned and left with a large inheritance as a teenager, St Nicholas liked to give money to the poor and needy without them knowing. Legend has it that one day he climbed on to a rooftop to drop a purse of gold down the chimney of a father unable to afford the wedding dowries of his three daughters... it landed in a stocking drying by the fire! And so the tradition of a kindly gift bearer bringing presents down the chimney was created.

In olden times St Nicholas delivered his gifts by hand. Nowadays Father Christmas has a sleigh and team of reindeer to help him with his task. For this reason his home is where the reindeer live in Lapland, an area in the Arctic Circle that spreads across Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia. It is there that you will also find the proud and traditional nomadic reindeer herders, the Sami.

And as they say there Buorit juovllat! (Merry Christmas!)

Father Christmas is loved across the globe and known by so many names, some of which are listed here: