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Santa in wartime

24 Dec

Although war is almost the antithesis of the festive spirit of goodwill, this feeling did show through during the Great War. Most famously, there was the Christmas Truce of 1914. There was also the continued work of old Saint Nick.

Santa Claus was already a fixture of Christmas time well before the First World War – both by that name and as Father Christmas. The traditions of his annual visit to the children of the world was almost a century old in 1914, related in the 1821 poem “A visit from St Nicholas” (better known now as “The Night Before Christmas”.

This peacetime tradition continued into the Great War. Santa could be seen in the streets and hospitals visiting poor and unwell children:

Santa in Hackney (Daily Mirror 27/12/1917)

Santa in Hackney (Daily Mirror 27/12/1917)

He also visited sick soldiers:

Santa visits a wounded soldier in Fulham (Daily Mirror, 27/12/1916)

Santa visits a wounded soldier in Fulham (Daily Mirror, 27/12/1916)

Of course he also visited soldiers at the Front:

Santa making a delivery on the Western Front (© IWM (Art.IWM PST 13397) )

Santa making a delivery on the Western Front (© IWM (Art.IWM PST 13397) )

Some of those soldiers didn’t quite understand the Christmas spirit, though, it seems:

A less generous-looking Father Christmas! (Daily Mirror 21/12/1916)

A less generous-looking Father Christmas! (Daily Mirror 21/12/1916)

Obviously, Santa was not so pro-British that he couldn’t also visit people on the other side of the lines. In Austria-Hungary, money was raised to help him to visit wounded soldiers (presumably, his capacity to deliver presents to the country suffered alongside the rest of their infrastructure during the war!)

"This Year Santa Claus Belongs to the Invalid Soldiers" (© IWM (Art.IWM PST 7182) )

“This Year Santa Claus Belongs to the Invalid Soldiers” (© IWM (Art.IWM PST 7182) )

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Posted by on 24 December 2014 in Famous People

 

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