top of page

Father Christmas and Santa Claus

Father Christmas is probably the most famous figure of Christmas customs today worldwide.

Emergence of Santa Claus

He first appears in the 19th century as part of the development of Christmas into a family-based gift giving festival and replaces Saint Nicholas and the Christ Child as the Christmas gift bringer to a certain extent. His fame may have grown very quickly, as “Father Christmas” or the “Weihnachtsmann”, as he is known in German, is already mentioned as a synonym for the “Christ Child” in Grimm’s “German Dictionary” dated 1820. His popularity was certainly also helped by the song text written by Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben around 1835 “Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann, kommt mit seinen Gaben”, a familiar melody in English-speaking countries for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” the German text tells us that: Tomorrow Father Christmas will be coming and bringing with him his gifts …”

Herr Winter

Early depictions

Earlier portrayals do not show him dressed in any particular way. Father Christmas is given a new unifying form in the mid-19th century. It was Moritz von Schwind who created the model of the gift bringer figure instantly adopted by the “trendsetting” bourgeoisie for an illustrated story in the Münchener Bilderbogen series in 1847: the character of “Mr Winter”. In this illustration he has a full beard, is dressed in a long hooded cloak and roams through the city’s streets with a Christmas tree.

bottom of page