Created for a Coca-Cola advertisement in 1931, Father Christmas as he is known today continues to rouse the imaginations of both children and grown-ups year after year. In fact, his origins can be traced back to antiquity, so he is actually more than a thousand years old!
Ever since the Roman era, Christmas has been celebrated at the end of December and during Roman times it was celebrated just after the feast of Saturnalia that culminated with the feast of Sigillaires, during which children were offered numerous presents - quite like today's tradition! Over the centuries, Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe and Christmas absorbed the rituals of Saturnalia.
During the Middle-Ages, Saint Nicholas, upon the death of his parents, decided to donate his entire fortune to the poor and live in poverty himself. His story became legend and he has become one of the most portrayed Saints in religious iconography. Since the 12th century he has been celebrated in many countries in Europe, where he is a gift-giver bringing sweets for well-behaved children. Today, the legend continues to grow.
In 1821 an American pastor wrote a Christmas story in which one of the characters was a fat, jolly, smiley man. Saint Nicholas' cap was replaced by the familiar red hat we know today, his donkey was replaced by a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. Father Christmas was in the making.
With the help of iconography from antiquity and the Middle Ages, together with the archives from the Coca-Cola company and some stunning photographs of Christmas celebrations from all over the world, Father Christmas' Biography retraces, through a collection of superb images and a high-quality text, the history of the most universal of all the modern myths.
FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE BIRTH
OF SAINT NICHOLAS
Saint Nicholas, the ancestor of Father Christmas
- From 250 AD to the 17th Century
Saint Nicholas becomes Father Christmas
- From 1809 to 1932
- Generosity and family values
- The beard, the red coat, the boots, the red hat, etc.
The world of Christmas and its frills
THE MANY FACES OF FATHER CHRISTMAS
- Father Christmas and the Arts
- Christmas markets and villages
- Father Christmas and advertising
- Father Christmas and the cinema
- Father Christmas and stamp collecting
- Father Christmas and the media
- Father Christmas and toys
- The Father Christmas « kitsch » museum
- Streets and shops during Christmas celebrations throughout the world
- The letters and pictures sent to Father Christmas from children all over the world.
- Father Christmas in songs and stories
- Father Christmas and the Christmas Feast Day...
FATHER CHRISTMAS THROUGHOUT
- The hero of one of the most widely-spread celebrations in the world. How have people, across all continents and countries come to adopt the figure of Father Christmas, no matter what their culture or religion?
An academic and writer, has published several essays (Dialogue des arts, Musique et arts visuels - Chagall), novels (La Mutilation - De l'aube à l'ombre) and general works, as well as producing various programs for France-Culture.
He has recently produced: Genres musicaux, 1998 - Guide de la musique, 2005 - Monuments de France, 2003 - Châteaux, 2005 - Les plus beaux sites du monde, 2007 for Larousse.
He is a journalist and author specialised in the natural world. Jean-Paul Viart has participated in the publication of numerous encyclopedic collections dedicated to animals (Prédateurs, Sur la Terre des dinosaures, Time Life; Sauvages, La grande parade des chevaux, M6 Interactions…).
R&Co works closely with several international photo agencies represented in 150 countries by over 1 000 photographers:
- Eyedea (Explorer, Gamma, Hoa-Qui, Jacana, Keystone, Rapho and Top)
- Rue des Archives