Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, St Nicholas, whoever, he is traditionally the bringer of gifts. But, so much for tradition, these days Santa’s function is to extract money from us all, even if sometimes for charitable reasons. We have to confess (well really we are quite proud) that we do not actually have a jolly, plump, whiskery, Ho! Ho! Ho! Father Christmas on file though no doubt they still exist in department stores to lure in parents with small children. Furthermore, in the interests of integrity, we own up that our authentic looking family Santa being ‘unmasked’ by his own child was actually shot for an advertisement, though we assure you the models are authentic father and son!
Several of the mumming plays that flourish at this season feature Father Christmas, but he is an ancilliary character who raises interest among rowdy audiences at the beginning, or sometimes encourages them to part with money or drink at the end. It has always been the tradition that the takings are for the mummers and these could have been a significant part of their annual income. On the other hand if takings were not good enough even very famous groups might simply give up. ‘Revival’ groups often take their place, after a year, a decade or even a century, though they usually donate their takings to charity.