I never thought I’d be someone advocating the use of the name Santa Claus over Father Christmas, but here we are. Since becoming a parent five years ago, I’ve reneged over a lot of my ‘when I’m a parent I won’t….’ promises.
As Christmas traditions go using the moniker Father Christmas was always one I observed never Santa Claus... ever, much the same way I don't say Happy Christmas (it just doesn’t sit well with Happy New Year, you see?), I’m very much a ‘Merry Christmas’ wisher. And I was the same with Father Christmas, even back in the days when I was young enough to ponder ‘Is Santa Claus real?’ it was always actually Father Christmas.
But now at the grand old age of 41 years old and mum to a five-year-old who is only just really understanding Christmas, seduced by the mystery shrouding elves and flying reindeer and the magic of the North Pole, I say Santa Claus. I’m pretty pushy about it too, if I’m honest - even if I do get eye roles from the grandparents.
And my reason? Have you ever noticed that when you talk about the moon to toddlers/kids you refer to it as ‘Mr Moon’, or when you’re reading a book with animals in they’re usually ‘Mr Tiger’ - the Mr is prevalent in kids stories, subtly positioning men as 'above women'. It took me four years to realise this and to decide to make a change to Santa Claus. Because Santa can be imagined as male or female, it’s not tied to gender in the same way Father Christmas is. And when I say female, I don't mean like the 'sexy Santa' that I maybe went to a university Christmas party dressed as circa 2003. No, I'm talking about a strong female role model type of Santa. And yes, we all know the talk of a Mrs Claus behind the scenes, with jokes and memes about how she’s the one doing all the work with the man striding in and taking all the credit for minimal effort; I believe this narrative to be archaic at best and damaging at worst.
And it seems I’m not alone in making this title switch for the big man in red, as FC’s days are numbered according to figures from a 2017 YouGov Omnibus. Half of the people surveyed (51%) say Father Christmas, while just over a third (36%) say Santa or Santa Claus, with the remainder of people saying they ‘don’t know’.
But perhaps more worrying if you’re a Father Christmas fan is that younger people favour Santa – meaning we could soon see the original moniker dropped. For 18-24-year-olds that is almost reversed, with one-third (33%) calling him Father Christmas compared to half who say Santa Claus. It’s not known why the generational shift is happening, though ‘Father Christmas’ is believed to be more traditionally British, first appearing in the mid-17th Century, while ‘Santa Claus’ – based on the Dutch name ‘Sinter Klaas’ came later.
Another 2018 study by PinkNews has claimed that 27.8% of people in the US and UK would prefer Santa to be either a woman or non-gendered. Of those, 10.6% say they want a female Santa, while 17.2% want the character to be gender-neutral.
Plus, in 2016 the National Trust came out to ban the use of the phrase Santa Claus in favour of Father Christmas because it is ‘more British’, saying the former is an ‘Americanism’. And the pre-kid me would have shared that article on Facebook and been all for it, but now? Now I need my son to believe that Santa can be female. I mean, the reindeer are all female so maybe, just maybe, Santa is too.
To fill the festive period with even more cheer, check out our Christmas jokes and groan at the worst Christmas cracker jokes ever. If you get fed up of jokes and want to eat your Christmas tree, you can, with these edible Christmas decoration ideas!
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Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.
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