German Museum Director wants to protect traditional Santa from CIA Coke rip off
Germany moves to claim ‘under threat’ Father Christmas
Germany museum director believes the Father Christmas spawned in Germany is under threat from the more modern Santa Claus associated with Coca-Cola
By David Crossland, Berlin3:09PM GMT 15 Dec 2013CommentsComments
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.
Germany lays claim to a number of Christmas traditions, including the tree, the nutcracker, glass baubles, the Advent calendar and the Christmas market.
But Felicitas Höptner, director of the German Christmas Museum in the Bavarian city of 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 ever-laughing Santa Claus who was spawned by a German immigrant to the United States in the 19th century.
Her museum has applied for Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas, the fourth century Greek bishop he is derived from, to be put on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Ms Höptner said the German Father Christmas, or “Weihnachtsmann,” was invented as a secular figure after the Reformation when Protestants spurned saint worship and sought an alternative gift-giver to the sacred Nicholas with his bishop’s mitre and crook.
The modern version of Father Christmas took shape in the mid-19th century when a Munich magazine published a drawing of a grim-looking man in a hooded coat carrying a candlelit Christmas tree through the snow, said Ms Höptner.
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 Höptner subscribes to the view that it was Coca-Cola, which cloaked him in its corporate colours in its Christmas advertising in the 1930s.
She said Santa’s background as an advertisement for the fizzy drink explained why he always smiled. His German counterpart, by contrast, can be grumpy.
“The traditional Father Christmas brings gifts but can also dole out punishment. In our kindergartens, the German Father Christmas still asks: ‘Have you been good?'”