Father Christmas brings with it annual a flare of goodwill thinking for all but what is the true history and real history behind the personality? Each year, millions of children look forward to the arrival of December 25th and its biggest quest, Santa Claus, christened Father Christmas! I remember as a child, we usually write out list of gift items expecting him to come along with, by the night of December 25th. Children all over the world adore him. In one recent year, the French postal service receives nearly 800,000 letters for him-mainly from children between three and eight years of age. With his bushy white beard and red robe edge in white fur, the affable figure of Santa Claus seems one of the most popular aspects of the holiday festivities. Can you remember this important children quest was burnt to death, precisely some 50 years ago in Dijon, France. Thus on December 23, 1951, Father Christmas was ‘executed’ in front of some 250 children.
What was his crime? He was accused of being a usurper and heretic. He was also accused of ‘paganizing Christmas’. The execution was decided upon with the agreement of the clergy who had earlier accused him. This was indeed a ‘symbolic gesture’. Some clergymen felt that customs surrounding him were turning people away from ‘the strictly Christian meaning’ of the nativity. Indeed the belief in father Christmas can be seen as ‘one of the most active hotbeds of paganism among modern men’ and one is obliged to ask if the church was justifiable in this act.
The origin of Father Christmas can be traced back to the king of the saturnalia. The saturnalia festival was celebrated in ancient Rome from December 17 to 24. During that week, buildings were decorated with greenery and gifts were exchanged. Like Christmas, the saturnalia was characterized by merrymaking. Now, more than 50 years after father Christmas was burned in effigy, how do Christians especially Catholics all over the world view Santa Claus? This distant heir of Rome’s saturnalia is as much a part of Christmas as is the representation of Jesus in a manger. Occasionally, a priest will denounce Santa Claus as representing a form of commercialism that takes Christ out of Christmas. For the most part, however, any scruples over the pagan roots of Father Christmas have foundered on the rocks of public acceptance.