Number One Son attended a big Christmas party and encountered his first Father Christmas with Archaeologist Husband. This was not a happy occasion and we have a photo to prove it. Nor is the primeval fear of a Father Christmas at a young age a rare phenomenon. Number One Son’s Number One Friend could stand the situation even less and was quickly carted away from the venue – as I could testify myself when picking up the ‘Christmas party people’.
The fear of colourful characters in costume and the horror on the faces of small children who have not realised yet the point of such figures as Father Christmas or clowns are related to each other. The suspicion towards characters with masks is understandable from the anthropological and evolutionary point of view. If you do not know something, you should be suspicious; this lesson should have been remembered by the Aztecs and the Inca when faced with pale men with beards on funny animals.
The Father Christmas of my early childhood was my grandfather in disguise. His costume was not of the warm, happy Coca Cola Santa Claus but that of the scarier traditional Nordic ‘Santa’, the bearded billy goat character with a black furry coat. This character asked if there were well-behaved, nice children in the house. These were due presents whereas the naughty children only got twigs for slashes and punishment. Maybe the small children sense the decay behind the rampant consumerism of modern Christmas or see a hint of darker historical characters that predated the well-wishing gift bearer.