Father Christmas VS Santa Claus [in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence]

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beauxyeux

Senior Member
italian italy
Is there a difference between Father Christmas and Santa? The boy in the book I'm translating says he wasn't allowed to use "Santa". Can you explain me why? The boy of the book is English and my opinion is that probably his mother didn't want him to use what could be considered a kind of slang in 70s England, as Santa is more American... But it's just a guess. Can any English natives tell me if I am correct or not?
Thanks
 
  • camillethecat

    New Member
    USA, English
    I am only familiar with American English. We use both "Santa" and "Father Christmas", but definitely "Santa" or "Santa Claus" are used most frequently. "Father Christmas" is an old usage.

    I can't answer as to why the boy's mother would not allow him to use "Santa." I do not know the context of the book you are translating.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Is there a difference between Father Christmas and Santa? The boy in the book I'm translating says he wasn't allowed to use "Santa". Can you explain me why? The boy of the book is English and my opinion is that probably his mother didn't want him to use what could be considered a kind of slang in 70s England, as Santa is more American... But it's just a guess. Can any English natives tell me if I am correct or not?
    Thanks
    I think you've hit the nail on the head - as a Brit I only know "santa" from American films etc, although as with much American usage I imagine that "santa" as a homonym for "father Christmas" is gaining ground here.
     

    beauxyeux

    Senior Member
    italian italy
    I think you've hit the nail on the head - as a Brit I only know "santa" from American films etc, although as with much American usage I imagine that "santa" as a homonym for "father Christmas" is gaining ground here.
    Ok thank you very much
     

    Coccibella

    Senior Member
    Italy, italian
    Hello everybody!
    By reading this thread I understand that "Father Christmas" was used in the past in the U.K while nowadays the American form "Santa Claus" it's replacing it, is it right?
    I'd like to know which form is more common in the U.K. since I teach English to children (at school we only teach BE) and I'm already thinking about some work they could do for Christmas (a little bit in advance!!).
    Thank you very much!!
     

    thimbles96

    Senior Member
    English
    I think Father Christmas is more common in the UK. But it is old. Nowadays you hear Santa more often, but traditionally he should be called Father Christmas and I hope you still believein him! Thimbles 96
     

    Coccibella

    Senior Member
    Italy, italian
    Of course I still believe in him...if it wasn't so I couldn't teach to children!!! ;)
    So, give me advice, which form do you think I should use with "my" children?
     

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    "Santa" isn't slang; I think the mother dislikes it purely because using it shows influence from AE. It's very common for parents in other English-speaking countries to be annoyed when their children sound too American (because of television or movies or whatever). I've seen similar conversations about the pronunciation of the letter 'z'. ("Zee" in the US and "zed" most other places.)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Speaking as an expert in this field, I think there has been a very significant change over the last half-century. My stockings were filled by Father Christmas or Daddy Christmas. My grand-daughters' stockings are filled by Santa Claus.

    panj
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I too prefer Father Christmas ~ apart from anything it always sounds a lot friendlier than Santa Claus ... to me, at least.
    I'd say that the imported Santa Claus still has quite a long way to go before he fully ousts Father Christmas from our (BE) vocabulary:)
     

    Coccibella

    Senior Member
    Italy, italian
    "Santa" isn't slang; I think the mother dislikes it purely because using it shows influence from AE. It's very common for parents in other English-speaking countries to be annoyed when their children sound too American (because of television or movies or whatever). I've seen similar conversations about the pronunciation of the letter 'z'. ("Zee" in the US and "zed" most other places.)
    I totally agree with you.

    So my children will draw "Father Christmas" and not "Santa Claus", although I'll explain to the ones who are 11 that Father Christmas in other English-speaking countries is also known as "Santa Claus".
    Thanks a lot!!
     

    clitia

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi!
    How do children (4 year old , in UK) say....Santa, Santa Claus or Father Christmas?, and what is he wearing, a red sack or a red bag?.
    thanks!
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Father Christmas!
    He carries a red sack, and wears a red suit :)
    How long is it since you were in the UK, Bev? I think you'll find that Father Christmas has been muscled so far out of the picture by Santa that he's in danger of extinction ...:(

    Thread now merged with a previous one.

    Keen-eyed readers will notice that what I said in #14 is rather different from what I said immediately above.
    It's been a long year during which Santa has gained further ground, Trick or Treat has reached epic proportions, everything is suddenly 'awesome', and we Brits have, for mysterious reasons, started having prom dances.

    (It's either that or I don't know what I'm talking about:D)
     
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    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    How long is it since you were in the UK, Bev? I think you'll find that Father Christmas has been muscled so far out of the picture by Santa that he's in danger of extinction ...
    Disagree!:) I think Father Christmas is still the usual term. Then again, I'm very naughty and therefore not the target demographic.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In the distant past when I still felt a need to refer to this character, I used the term "Father Christmas". Should I need to refer to him again, he would probably go by the name of "the poor sod who's got the job of standing in the cold outside the department store, going 'Ho ho ho!'" (Sorry to spoil the fun, kids.)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Why not do something a little different and refer to the fellow as St Nick? (Admittedly, it might cause a problem if you celebrate St Nicholas's Day on 6 Dec!)
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Why not do something a little different and refer to the fellow as St Nick? (Admittedly, it might cause a problem if you celebrate St Nicholas's Day on 6 Dec!)
    I would find that very strange because of resonances of "Old Nick" (ie the devil).
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Why not do something a little different and refer to the fellow as St Nick? (Admittedly, it might cause a problem if you celebrate St Nicholas's Day on 6 Dec!)
    Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, which just another name for St Nicholas.

    Adelaide, South Australia [where I live] has had a Christmas Pageant each year since 1933.

    The last float in the pageant is Father Christmas. This Father Christmas wears a red suit, but does not have a red hat. He has a wreath of holly in his white hair.

    This Father Christmas then goes to his Magic Cave [in a department store, naturally] where children can visit him and tell him what they want for Christmas, have their photos taken, &c.

    In South Australia at least, the tradition of the Pageant is keeping "Father Christmas" alive, but Santa is becoming more and more used.

    These Santas follow the US pattern. They wear a red hat and go "Ho, ho, ho". I don't suppose it will be long before they start ringing bells as they do in America.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    As Santa Claus is derived from Saint Nicholas, isn't it incredible that it's treated as a first name and surname? We wouldn't refer to St. George as Saint or even Mr Saint!

    Santa Claus has taken root in Italy now. The Italians pronounce Claus like the German Klaus, not realising that the au is an American rendering of the long aa in Klaas.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The mother may be a staunch atheist and dislike the Santa because it means Saint. Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas.
    I suppose it might work the other way round too: some Christians might avoid associating the Christian term saint with the secular or pagan figure of Father Christmas.

    Quite independently of this, I don't use the term Santa Claus; and as far as I can remember all the English people I know tend to say Father Christmas instead.
     
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    elirlandes

    Senior Member
    Ireland English
    'Father Christmas' does not exist in Ireland, to the best of my knowledge. Kids there call him 'Santy' or 'Santy Claus'.
    More usually "Santa" or "Santa Claus".

    Father Christmas sounds peculiarly "English" to Irish ears, and is very rarely used. Perhaps this is because we are more used to the veneration of Saints in Ireland. "Father Christmas" strikes me as a more secular sort of a phenomenon.
     

    cadylol

    New Member
    French - France
    In the movie "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence", there is a scene where a japanese soldier thinks he is "Father Christmas". Lawrence tells him that "Father Christmas" means "Santa Claus". Moreover, David Bowie, who acts a british soldier, doesn't look like understanding "Father Christmas", and Lawrence translates him "Father Christmas" to "Santa Claus". Consequently, I was wondering why it seems so different to Lawrence and Bowie that the Japanese uses "Father Christmas" or "Santa Claus". I thought that "Father Christmas" was very British, and since Lawrence and Bowie are British, I don't understand why Lawrence prefers to say "Santa Claus".

    Thanks for your help !

    <moderator note: YouTube link removed. Prior approval required in order to post video links.>
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    David Bowie's character is from New Zealand which may be the reason (also for "Merry" instead of "Happy" in the title).
     

    cadylol

    New Member
    French - France
    Ok thank you, I thought he was from Britain, that is why I didn't understand. I didn't know that "Happy" was used instead of "Merry" in Britain :)
    So "Father Christmas" isn't used in New Zealand at all ?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    'Merry Christmas' is fine in the UK too. It's still used. Charles Dickens certainly wrote about 'a merry Christmas' in A Christmas Carol.

    'Father Christmas' is the traditional term in BrE, but 'Santa Claus' is very common these days. I'm sure 'Father Christmas' would be understood in Australia and New Zealand too, so I'd be a little puzzled too. Younger Brits tend to say 'Santa' these days - a clear American influence.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    The "Santa Claus" explanation may be more for the benefit of US cinema audiences. I don't know whether the average AE speaker is familiar with "Father Christmas"(?)
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    According to Wikipedia, "Father Christmas" has been around longer than "Santa Claus." Disney gave "Santa Claus" a big boost. In the run-up to Christmas I've seen many a front garden with a commercially-produced board saying "Santa Stop Here" (without a "Please"); I've never seen "Father Christmas Stop Here." When I was a kid there were no boards of either type: the times were less ostentatious and there was less money to blow on such things.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    According to the ngram results on Google Ngram Viewer, there was only a brief period in the 1920s when Father Christmas prevailed over Santa Claus in British books.

    And yet my memory agrees with those above, that he was always called Father Christmas in the 1950s, and the alternative resource Google Ngram Viewer agrees with me, showing a very different pattern.

    Perhaps this is a case of oral tradition being at odds with the print media?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The mother may be a staunch atheist and dislike the Santa because it means Saint. Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas.
    It is probably more likely that the mother is a Baptist, who see non-Baptists as non-saints.

    On the narrower question, I agree with Keith.
     
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