Q. Very nice to have you here Father Christmas, and we all hope your preparations this year are going well? May I start us off by saying that red is a colour that looks rather fetching on you – have you always worn a red suit?
A. Ho, ho, ho! Thank you for having me as a guest on the Reading Museum blog. In actual fact my wife always mentions that I used to wear a lot of green, reminding everyone that whilst it’s frosty in the winter, spring is on its way. At some point Victorian gentlemen, including caricaturist Thomas Nast started to draw me looking slightly plumper and wearing red. The Coca-cola Company took a liking to my red suit and so it became very fashionable and I have stuck with red to this day.
Q. Which do you prefer: Mince pies, Christmas pudding, or chocolates?
A. Funnily enough chocolates are my favourite. In the sessions here at Reading Museum I always say ‘Can you put an extra chocolate in your cornucopia for me!’ (and, of course, you always do). Mind you, many children do leave out an awful lot of mince pies on Christmas Eve, which are lovely accompanied with a small glass of port or mead.
Q. You visit Children all over the world, does that mean you know every language?
A. Of course! I must understand each and every child… and then there’s elfish, a fabulous language, but I can’t say any more about it, it’s a North Pole secret!
Q. Perhaps one of the biggest secrets it what your real name is. Are you called St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Santa Claus?
A. I’m all three, we are one and the same. The different names come from different parts of the world. The name St. Nicholas originated in Turkey but the Dutch similarly named me ‘SinterKlaas’. This developed into my American name Santa Claus. In Britain I became known as ‘Old Man Christmas’ or ‘Father Christmas’, that is what I prefer to be called, but I answer to all three. I won’t tell you what my wife calls me when I’ve forgotten to take the reindeer out and I tramp my muddy boots in to the hall. Ho, ho, ho!
Q. Who is the original St. Nicholas?
A. Well, from what I remember from my own school days the original St. Nicholas was a kind, wealthy Bishop living in Turkey around in the 4th Century and as his popularity spread as he became patron saint in other countries such as Italy in the early Medieval period. I was asked to take on the role of Old Man Christmas around the 16th Century and the legends of St. Nicholas and Sinterklass merged as I became more famous.
Q. What kind of presents do you give to Mrs Claus (other than perhaps not making a mess!)… and do you get any gifts yourself?
A. I ask the elves to make something different for Mrs Claus every year. Don’t tell anyone, but this year it’s a lovely cosy pair of slippers with silver bells on. As for me I do love a handmade gift, chutney or marmalade are my favourites. I do try to encourage everyone to share their presents around, it can be a hard time for some people in winter and a small gift and a little cheer can do wonders.
Q. How true. Now I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how long is your beard?
A. Ooh, I don’t know, I have never measured it! I do tend to let it grow it a little longer in winter to keep my chin warm.
Q. You do look extremely youthful and nimble too, to fit down all of those chimneys! Surely climbing down the chimney is an inconvenience – would it not make more sense to come in the front door?
A. Oh no, I wouldn’t want to knock on the doors or set any alarms off and wake up the whole house. The chimney is the next best thing - it would be a shame if anyone woke up by mistake and saw their presents before Christmas Day. But don’t worry if you don’t have a chimney, I’ll ask the cat, dog or hamster to let me in.
Q. Thank you so much Father Christmas for agreeing to chat with us at Reading Museum this Christmas, and we’ll all be sure you leave you out some chocolates this Christmas Eve.
A. Ho, ho, ho! How lovely! And finally, I would just like to say - I’m really looking forward to meeting all of the children on the 16th December here in my Winter Grotto at the Museum. I’ll just have time to meet each and every one before I start loading my sleigh the following week for a very Merry Christmas!