From Nikolaus to Father Christmas to Easter Bunny
December 10, 2016 9:55am CST
This year ~150 million choccie Nikolauses and Fathers Christmas have been produced in Germany. Superficially, there isn’t much difference between them. Both are portly old men with a white beard clad in a red coat trimmed with white fur and black boots. The genuine Nikolaus figure dressed like a bishop is hard to find. It's been mashed up with Father Christmas and has lost its idiosyncratic character. But there *is* a difference I've just learnt about. An initiative organised by the Catholic Church in Germany wants to help move Nikolaus to the foreground again, at least until 6th December which is the day when he visits children at home and brings them some presents. Then Father Christmas can take over. Postcards show that already in the 19th century a Father Christmas as we know him now existed. Yet, he began to conquer the world only from 1931 onwards when cartoonist Haddon Sundblom designed the figure for an ad campaign for Coca Cola. Nikolaus is much older. Saint Nikolas, aka Nikolaos of Myra, was a Greek bishop of Myra (now Turkey) who lived in the 4th century. He was known for helping the needy clandestinely by leaving gifts in front of their houses. As he was a Christian saint, it's understandable that the Church is interested in saving his reputation from being snowed under mere commercialism. Anyways, what happens when Christmas is over and the shelves in the shops have been cleared of everything Christmassy including choccie Fathers Christmases? What happens is what is happening already now: choccie Easter bunnies are produced. The choccie Fathers Christmas have come to the shops long before Christmas, of course. The day the last has left the choccie factory the casts for the Easter Bunnies are put up. The production has to start early because by the beginning of April 300 million must be produced and standing on the shelved in the shops. I've read that it's a myth that Easter Bunnies are made out of unsold Fathers Christmas. Yet, I don't know what happens with the latter. Maybe they're sent to countries where Orthodox Christians live. They celebrate Christmas two weeks later. The Easter Bunny was 'born' in Germany in 1682. Its 'father' was the medical professor Georg Franck von Franckenau. It left the country with German emigrants. In America, it transformed from its original existence as a hare into a bunny. I bet you all wanted to know this.
21 people like this
10 Dec 16
I am so glad you wrote this post, because I wrote about Saint Nicholas (or Nikolaus) of Myra the last 6th of December and a very few members of myLot knew about this celebration. We celebrate the 6th of December, as they still do in The Netherlands and in some parts of the north of France.
10 Dec 16
@maluse So we have the Germans and Americans to blame for all that bunny nonsense. My preference for Christmas is not to have it at all, or maybe to have it once every 10 years. The religious aspect I treat personally quite separately from Santas and snowmen. I like that Europeans do it differently to us - another reason to resist Brexit.
• Derry, Northern Ireland
11 Dec 16
Interesting article. It reminds me of this little piece of dialogue between Susan and her grandfather after the race to save the Hogfather: "...you have to learn to believe the little lies in order to be able to believe the really big ones, like justice, mercy, duty..." (paraphrased). Here is a short clip on "belief" from the 2006 film of the book "Hogfather" by the late Terry Pratchett - the complete film is on YouTube if curiosity gets the better of you:
• United States
10 Dec 16
How nice that the unsold Father Christmases are recycled to produce the wonder Easter Bunnies. So pleased that the Easter Bunny has had a long run! I like the chocolate bunnies, but despise the hard-boiled eggs that darn Easter Bunny brings to children. Never met an egg I liked.