Christmas traditions and Santa’s suit

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It’s nearly Christmas – the time of year for peace, reconciliation, and goodwill to all humankind. You probably know that the basis of Christmas is a religious festival in the Christian religion to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In the fourth century, the church fixed the date for Christmas as the 25th December even though there is plentiful evidence to suggest that alternate dates are more accurate. But this date corresponded with the winter solstice on the Roman calendar. Curiously, it was also the same time as the traditional pagan celebration of Yule of the Germanic and Norse peoples – we get the expression ‘Yuletide’ from this as well as the tradition of the Yule Log.
 
Similarly, many of the modern-day Christmas traditions have little to do with Christianity. Christmas has also become a secular holiday (secular means having nothing to do with religion) when most people take time off work and spend that time with their family and friends. There’s lots of food and drink, giving of gifts, visiting relatives and such like. Most families decorate a Christmas tree and send cards to their relatives, friends, and work colleagues. But where and when did these traditions originate?
 
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The Christmas tree has its origins in Germany in the late Middle Ages (in the 1500’s) when Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Of course, there are plenty of pine trees there! This tradition was brought to England in the early Victorian Age through Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria. In America, European immigrants popularised Christmas trees. Nowadays, we also have Christmas lights on the tree and sometimes all over the house, both inside and outside. This is, of course, a relatively recent tradition and could not have happened without the invention of the electric light bulb. Thank you Thomas Edison!  
Christmas cards are similarly a Victorian creation. The first cards appeared in England in 1843 and the idea of mailing cards to family and friends gradually caught on from there. Advent calendars are even more recent and are also of German origin. The advent calendar was mainly for children to count down the days to Christmas day by opening a door or window on the calendar each day from the 1st December to the 25th.
 
Then there’s Santa Clause. This character has many names. Starting with Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian monk, on which the character is supposedly based, Santa is also known as Father Christmas in English speaking countries; and also as  Kris Kringle in USA and Canada. In France he is Père Noël; in Spain Papa Noel (both mean ‘Father Christmas’); Sinterklaas in the Netherlands; Santo Clos in Mexico; and in Germany, Weihnachtsmann, which means literally ‘Christmas man.’
 
The modern-day legend of Santa Claus living at the North Pole and travelling throughout the world on Christmas Eve delivering gifts to all the children is another tradition given to us by the Victorians. In those times there was no definitive colour for Santa’s suit. Saint Nicholas supposedly wore a scarlet robe and American cartoonist, Thomas Nast, depicted Santa in red when illustrating the poem ‘Twas the Night before Christmas.’ But other images of Father Christmas have him wear various colours – tans, browns and yellow. The cover illustration for Frank Baum’s novel, ‘The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus’ dress the character in a grey-green. 
 
The most common dress code for Santa in Victorian times and into the twentieth century was various shades of green. The Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens’ classic ‘The Christmas Carol’ is synonymous with Father Christmas. The illustrations of the time show the character in a rich dark green – like the holly leaves – to represent life and nature. 
 
But then in 1931, all pretence of alternate colour schemes were abandoned and from that moment Santa’s garb has been red – definitively red, only red, and nothing but red. And the reason for that is…. Coca-Cola. 
 
‘Did he say Coca-Cola?’ I hear you ask. Yes, I did. The food and drink giant wanted to get more people drinking more Coca-Cola during winter and get away from any perception that it was a warm weather drink. So, for their Christmas advertising campaign in 1931, they donned Santa in a ‘Coca-Cola red’ suit, depicted him downing a bottle of Coke and the rest is history! The power of mass commercialism has meant that for almost a hundred years Santa Claus has worn a deep red suit and sports the corporate Coca-Cola colour scheme. Generations of children know Santa only in red, although most probably don’t know or ask why – he just does!
 
We’re actually quite pleased about that because we love the colour red. And Red Fox and the gang are quite partial to Coca-Cola! If you are still thinking of what to buy as Christmas presents this year, then what about the gift of education? The new Red Fox Education mobile app premium subscription offers quality English courses to improve your skills and help you speak beautiful and more correct English. Right now you can get the subscription for a special rate, starting at only $14 for a 3 month period! Just follow this link: 
 
Finally, whatever you and your family plan to do over the Christmas period, all of us here at Red Fox Education wish you a wonderful holiday.
 
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Dec 13, 2022 | English,British English,Festival | No Comments

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