Christmas card, Anonymous

Christmas card, Anonymous

Best Wishes
Christmas card
Anonymous
Britain
19th century
Embossing and chromolithography with gold block printing
Museum no. E.382-1971

Three-quarters view of Santa's face depicted in a brass bell-shaped cartouche with holly branches.

Father Christmas, Santa Claus or Old Saint Nicholas take slightly different forms in each country. The character's history begins with Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, present-day Turkey, who is credited with many acts of generosity. The most famous of these was giving dowries to three sisters by throwing gold into their house at night when he could not be seen. After his death as a martyr he became the patron saint of children and young maidens, but also of sailors, businessmen, pirates and thieves. He was and is particularly celebrated by the Dutch, where he is known as Sinterklaas; the anglicised version of this name, and of Saint Nicholas, is Santa Claus. His feast day falls on 6 December, very close to Christmas.

As he was a bishop, he would have worn red ecclesiastical robes. This element of Father Christmas's appearance was further developed in the 19th century. Gradually, they all converged into the jolly old gift-giver recognised throughout much of the world.

This card can be found in Print Room Box 3.