Have you ever wondered what the difference between Santa Claus and Father Christmas is?
Santa Claus or Father Christmas? Regardless of what you may call him by name, he is widely known for spreading Christmas cheer. During this time of year, children all over the world look forward to Santa or Father Christmas’ visit, but have you ever wondered what the difference between the two is? Or how Christmas in America is celebrated compared to Christmas in England?
Santa Claus and Father Christmas might be considered distant cousins as they both find their roots drawn from the real-life Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived during the 4th century. Father Christmas first appeared during the ancient British mid-winter festivals; at the time he was not called Father Christmas, but was known as a pagan figure that was the bringer of spring. Then while under Saxon rule, this pagan figure morphed into King Frost (well known for visiting people’s homes during the holidays and if people were nice to him, it was believed that he would give them a present in return).
During the Viking invasion of Britain, Father Christmas once again took on new characteristics… an elderly old man, with a long white beard, a long blue hooded cloak and an eight-legged horse, who travelled all over the world from the 20th to 31st of December, giving out presents to the good and punishments for the bad. But it wasn’t until the Norman invasion, Britain was introduced to Saint Nicholas and combined with Christmas traditions of the past, Father Christmas or Father Noel was born. Yet, his character was once again revived during the Victorian age. This version of Father Christmas was not associated with disturbing gifts to children, but instead was believed to deliver the Christmas Spirit and encouraged those around him to eat, drink and be merry during the Christmas season.
However, Americans have their own version of Father Christmas and they call him Santa Claus or Kris Kringle. Thanks to the stories and traditions of St. Nicholas brought over by Dutch and German settlers and the 19th century works of Clement Clarke Moor, Santa Claus was created. Santa Claus is described as a big-bellied, jolly old man that dons a white beard and a red and white coat. He is well known for traveling from the North Pole in his sleigh powered by 8 reindeer, while carrying gifts for all the good little boys and girls all around the world, of course made by Santa’s helpers.
Besides having different names, you might be wondering, what the other differences are between England and America during Christmas? Below are a few more ways the two countries differ during the holiday:
- Seasons Greetings – You’ll hear “Merry Christmas’ from most Americans, as opposed to ‘Happy Christmas’ from the Brits.
- Christmas According To The Kids – Most American children believe in Mr & Claus, who live at the North Pole with all of Santa’s elves. While British children, on the other hand, believe in Father Christmas who lives in Lapland, Finland.
- Dinner is Served – The UK takes cues from a classic American Thanksgiving, you’ll usually find a turkey with all its trimmings as part of a traditional Christmas dinner. However, Americans opt for honey-roasted ham or roast beef for their Christmas meal. For dessert, you will find no such thing as a Christmas pudding or mince pies with brandy butter on an American dinner table. Instead, you are more likely to find fruit cake, pies, cakes and or cookies.
- The Hunger Games – During Christmas dinner in England, it’s normal to find a Christmas cracker at your place setting. The cracker is pulled apart with a neighbouring dinner companion. Inside these festive crackers are paper crowns to wear, a prize to play with and a joke to tell.
- Boxing Day – In Britain, the day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day, which is just as important as Christmas itself. Traditionally, Boxing Day was a day off for household staff where they received a Christmas box, which sometimes contained money from their employers. Boxing Day is also known as the day where UK shops have big sales, similar to the American ‘Black Friday.’
Despite the small differences between the two countries, both love to celebrate Christmas in their own deep-rooted and time-honored traditions.
Fun Fact: Did you know that in Germany and in some other European countries, presents are usually opened on Christmas Eve. There’s no specific reason behind this, it’s just a personal preference in how families choose to celebrate the holiday. In all this, one thing does remain constant; children can always expect to find a gift underneath the Christmas tree.