Is it Father Christmas or Santa Claus?

Santa Claus and Father Christmas might be considered distant cousins as they both find their roots drawn from the real-life St Nicholas of Myra, who lived during the fourth century, writes Victoria Mason-Hines.

Father Christmas - or Santa Claus if you prefer - will be at Gainsborough Old Hall on December 14 and 15.
Father Christmas - or Santa Claus if you prefer - will be at Gainsborough Old Hall on December 14 and 15.

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.During the Viking invasion of Britain, Father Christmas once again took on new characteristics, this time an elderly old man, with a long white beard, a long blue hooded cloak riding an eight-legged horse, who travelled all over the world from December 20-31, giving out presents to the good and punishments for the bad.After the Norman invasion Britain was introduced to St Nicholas, and combined with Christmas traditions of the past, Father Christmas was born with many of traditions today coming from the Victorian era.However, Santa Claus is a New Yorker of Dutch descent who emerged in the early part of the 19th century

Christmas in New York in the 1700s was a riotous affair.

However, middle class New Yorkers wanted a more sober affair.

And in 1804 the antiquarian John Pintard founded a historical society and hit on St Nicholas – the patron saint of children and present giving – as the benevolent new symbol of the city.Santa Claus was quickly fleshed out in the following years, crucially, in the 1823 poem A Visit From St Nicholas better known as The Night Before Christmas, which heralded the modern notion of Santa Claus.

Father Christmas is visiting at the Old Hall on December 14 and 15.

Sit back and listen to stories of Christmases from the past and enjoy finding out more about Father Christmas himself.

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Victoria Mason-Hines is visitor experience manager at Gainsborough Old Hall.