What happened to Father Christmas?

When I was a child Christmas was a magical time. My parents would buy two eight foot trees for the first two floors of our Southsea townhouse. We would decorate them together, using the ornaments made by my brother and I on the family tree on the first floor and the posh ornaments for the ground floor room where parties were often enjoyed. The trees were colourful and sparkling with little silver bells, baubles and tinsel. The nativity scene was set and awaited the baby Jesus.

My brother and I never saw a present until Christmas day. All presents were safely stashed away where prying little fingers could not reach. My parents would try to send us to bed on Christmas eve telling us to make sure we were asleep before Father Christmas arrived or he wouldn’t leave us any presents. But we would be so very excited. We’d ask to stay up late, and they warned us against it but would allow it. And then, like magic, we would hear the bells on Father Christmas’ sleigh. We’d race to the window to try to catch a glimpse before Mum hurried us to bed.

My heart racing, I’d hide under the blankets squeezing my eyes shut and thinking I would never fall asleep. But of course I did. And when I woke, a huge stocking stuffed with satsumas, nuts and toys was hanging from the end of my bed. Once I had finished with my stocking I would race downstairs to the tree that was magically transformed, surrounded by presents of all sizes, all shapes. What a miraculous sight that was. Father Christmas had visited and left us a heap of presents. We always knew which presents were from the benevolent man in red because only our names would be written on the tag. Father Christmas never signed his name.

Many, many years later and today’s British children are excited about Santa. Today’s parents, who probably grew up with Father Christmas, are telling their children Santa is coming. I know the name is largely irrelevant, but it feels like a symptom of something lost from British society. Father Christmas was a part of British identity. I remember learning about his many different names across the world. But with today’s lack of borders through the internet, language has homogenised to some extent and Father Christmas seems to have been lost.

I miss those days of innocence. And as an adult, I miss the nuance and individuality of British English as it becomes more and more Americanised. Of course the lack of borders is also a positive change and that gives me loved ones all over the world. It’s not an advance I would change. And of course, they may have taken our Father Christmas, but we haven’t given up our s for z just yet.

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