Did you know there was a difference between Father Christmas and Santa Claus? Their tale emanates from different time periods and regions of the world. The tale of Santa Claus came down from the old story of Saint Nicholas, a Greek Bishop in Myra (now Turkey) in the 3rd Century AD who had a kindness for children and brought them gifts.
Earliest stories of Father Christmas came from ancient British mid-winter festivals during the Middle Ages. Wearing a green cloak and a wreath of holly, ivy or mistletoe, he was considered a harbinger of spring and a sign of good things to come.
Later, in Britain, Father Christmas was also known as King Frost or King Winter. Dressing up like King Frost, a man would be welcomed for a visit into homes and given food in the hopes of a mild winter. Through these customs, Father Christmas became associated with receiving good things.
Over time Father Christmas became associated with the Norse mythological father figure of Odin, (Thor’s father) who would visit the earth during the Yuletide between December 20th and 31st. Odin grew portly, had vastly accelerated travel times, and knew who had been naughty or nice.
In Europe these earlier tales later were blended in with the story of Saint Nicholas, bringing in the association of gifts for children. In the 1600’s the Puritans in England sought to ban Father Christmas and the customs surrounding him were suppressed until the 1800’s Victorian’s revival of the “Spirit of Christmas”.
In America the merger of Father Christmas and Santa Claus became even more complete with the 1822 poem “The Night Before Christmas”, cementing for the coming generations the legend of “Old Saint Nick”.