It’s all about Father Christmas this week isn’t it? But what colour will yours be? Will he be fat, red and jolly or maybe green and elfin or, shock horror, even blue? The choice is yours and there’s no wrong answer – take your pick.
It’s often said that the man who we’ll be expecting down our chimney on Friday night was largely invented in the 1930s by Coca Cola as a publicity coup.
There’s truth in that but the story goes back to 3rd century Turkey where a very shy and red robed St Nicholas (often called Santa Claus) worked hard to help the poor and especially children. One day Nicholas discovered a poor man who could not afford to give a dowry to his three young daughters. Nicholas decided to help them anonymously and on the eve of the first two girls coming of age, Nicholas tossed a bag of gold coins through the open window. On the eve of his third daughter’s birthday, the poor man decided to lay in wait. Nicholas learned of the plan, and instead tossed the third bag into the chimney. The youngest daughter had hung up her stockings to dry near the hearth, and the bag of gold somehow landed in one of the stockings.
The Normans brought Santa to Britain where his myth elided with that of the pagan green cloaked father Christmas who wore a long white beard decorated with holly ivy and mistletoe.
If you treated him right, sat him by the fire and gave him something to eat and drink he would reward you. Later the Vikings brought another element to our mythical figure. At the end of December the Norse God Odin transformed himself into someone called Jul (Yule), wearing a long blue hooded cloak and rode through the world on his eight legged horse dispensing treats to the good and punishment to the bad.