Did you know? Santa hasn’t always worn red – for centuries green was his colour!
Early drawings of Santa actually show him wearing green clothing, adorned with evergreens such as holly and mistletoe.
This was the ancient spirit of Christmas best known from Dickens A Christmas Carol, when the Spirit of Christmas Present visits Scrooge.
Peering round the door, Scrooge sees a jolly giant dressed in a fur lined evergreen robe. This was a giant of plenty, stressing laughter, fun, good food & drink, of family and friends.
‘Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge as he came peeping round the door.’
He then describes the Spirit :
‘It was clothed in one simple deep green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur ……. and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air.’
This was a midwinter spirit that would have been familiar for generations. December has always been a time of rejoicing. The shortest day has passed, days are getting longer and nights shorter. It marked the beginning of the end of winter.
No one knows when Jesus was actually born. The Winter Solstice, a time when light overcame dark, was regarded as a good time to celebrate the nativity.
Written references to a midwinter spirit visiting homes have been found as long ago as the fifteenth century. In 1616 Playwright Ben Jonson wrote about the visit of Captain Christmas accompanied by his sons, Misrule, Carol, Mince Pie, Gambol, Wassail, Post and Pan, Baby Cake, New Years Gift, and Mumming.
Traditional Mumming plays enacted out by groups of people going from house to house, or in town squares include a visit from Father Christmas who arrives with the words
“In comes I, old Father Christmas,
Be I welcome or be I not?
I hope old Father Christmas
Will never be forgot.’
This was a spirit of joy and happiness, dressed in green and evergreens.
It is an image that continues to persist. A green clad Santa with lots of holly and mistletoe can still be seen on many Christmas cards, and Christmas images including ornaments for sale in shops at Christmas.
The spirit of the Wildwood remains, even when hidden amid the more commercially well known red costumed Santa.