Father Christmas: the Origin of the Iconic Christmas Gift Giver

Father Christmas: the Origin of the Iconic Christmas Gift Giver

Based on a real person: the 4th century Nicholaos of Myra.

front view Byzantine gold iconographic ring, circa 6th   10th century.
Byzantine gold icon ring, circa 6th - 10th century.
Ref: 27556

Thursday 7th December 2017

Father Christmas or Santa Claus - the jolly, rotund, white bearded old man who wears a fur trimmed red outfit easily comes to mind when thinking of Christmas and the time of gift giving. Not many may know however that this Father Christmas character is actually based on a real person: the 4th century Nicholaos of Myra.

Nikolaos was a Bishop in the town of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Orphaned at a young age, he inherited a large sum of money which enabled him to do his good works. His generosity to those less fortunate than himself led to his canonisation, earning him the more recognisable title of Saint Nicholas.

In his most infamous deed, Nicholas helped an impoverished man who had three daughters. This man was so penniless that he could not provide dowries meaning that the girls would remain unmarried and in the absence of employment would most likely become prostitutes. Hearing of this predicament, Nicholas decided to assist the family in secret. As the story goes, under the cover of darkness, he threw three purses full of gold coins through the window of the house- one for each girl. Another version of the story relates that the purses were thrown over the course of three nights; another version tells of the three purses being thrown over three years. In each version, the father becomes curious, wanting to know who their benefactor was and lies in wait. Nicholas foils his plan and tosses the third purse down the chimney and into the drying stocking of one of the daughters. This gave rise to his legendary reputation of secret gift giving, and also made him the patron saint of brides because of his generous donation of dowries to poor girls.

This year, if you are looking for an extra special present for someone's Christmas stocking, with over 2,700 unique and hand crafted pieces of jewellery, give the gift of history with an ancient, antique or vintage jewel from our extensive collection.

 vintage ruby diamond bow brooch berganza hatton garden
Vintage ruby and diamond bow brooch, circa 1960.
Ref: 25500
antique Cartier Diamond bow brooch hatton garden berganza
Cartier diamond bow brooch, circa 1910.
Ref: 25502
 sapphire bead necklace berganza hatton garden
Vintage sapphire bead necklace, circa 1960.
Ref: 23572
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