Europe

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Germany ho, ho, hopes to lay claim to Father Christmas

David Crossland Berlin

Published 16/12/2013|23:31

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Santa Claus: jolly invention by a German immigrant to US
Santa Claus: jolly invention by a German immigrant to US

A German museum has applied for Father Christmas to be added to the Unesco list of cultural heritage, arguing that he has German origins and is in danger of being sidelined by America's Santa Claus.

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Germany lays claim to a number of Christmas traditions, including the tree and the nutcracker.

Felicitas Hoptner, the director of the German Christmas Museum in Rothenburg, thinks Father Christmas's German origins are "under threat".

She said Germans no longer understood the origins of Father Christmas or the differences between him and the jolly Santa Claus invented by a German immigrant to the US.

Her museum has applied for Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas, the fourth-century Greek bishop from whom he derived, to be put on Unesco's list of intangible cultural heritage.

Ms Hoptner said the German Father Christmas was invented as a secular figure after the Reformation when Protestants spurned saint worship.

The modern version of Father Christmas took shape in the mid-19th Century when a Munich magazine published a drawing of a man in a hooded coat carrying a Christmas tree, said Ms Hoptner. A few decades later, Thomas Nast, a German-born cartoonist, took the tradition to America and modernised him in his illustrations, replacing the hood with a hat and shortening the coat.

Opinions differ on how the coat became red. Ms Hoptner subscribes to the view that Coca-Cola cloaked him in its colours in its advertising in the 1930s. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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