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Germany to Reclaim Father Christmas

Mon, 16 Dec 2013
We are all more than familiar with the big, jolly, red man who squeezes down chimneys on Christmas Eve to give wonderful presents to all the good boys and girls. But one museum director in Germany wants to preserve the origin, and has applied to have the original Father Christmas added to UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Santa Claus is not only a happy belief for many children, who leave out cookies and milk the night before Christmas, but the more critical of us argue he is also an icon of mass consumerism and the materialistic greed and pressure that drives up Christmas expense.

The director of the Rothenberg German Christmas Museum, Felicitas Höptner, resents this version of Santa Claus, feeling it is a mutation of the German, original Santa Claus, who was originally called Father Christmas, or to give him his true German name: "Weihnachtsmann".

Many of us think Santa Claus and Father Christmas are one and the same, but Höptner insists the 'American version' dilutes the original. A perfect example of this would be that Santa's red hat and coat that were allegedly coloured to match the Coca-Cola brand colour for advertisement purposes, and it stuck, whereas he was supposedly to originally wear a sombre green cloak.

Father Christmas is also supposed to be more stern, Ms Höptner feels, and he should have the capacity to be grumpy, unlike the ever-laughing Santa of modern times. He has also lost his tendency to judge children on their behaviour now, with all children getting on Santa's 'good list' no matter what, whereas the sterner Father Christmas would focus on whether children deserved their presents, with the threat to hand out punishments instead of presents.

Whatever his origin, Santa Claus is definitely an intrinsic part of Christmas, but the origins of any tale and culture should still be preserved. So help your children set out Santa's milk and cookies (and don't forget a carrot or two for Rudolph) but remember 'der alte Weihnachtsmann' and be glad Santa isn't quite so grumpy any more.
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