Children gather around Father Christmas inside the Bethel Schoolhouse at the Stately Oaks Plantation in Jonesboro. This year, youngsters will be able to meet Father Christmas this Saturday.
Forget Santa Claus, Father Christmas is coming to town — to Jonesboro, that is.
Children of the Southern Crescent will have an opportunity to meet Father Christmas and listen to stories about the true meaning of the holiday, this Saturday, Dec. 10, said Ted Key, a volunteer for Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County Inc.
“This is the one that is traditional,” he said. “He is totally different from Santa Claus, who began to appear in the 1800s.”
He said there will be two sessions available for the “Breakfast with Father Christmas” event. Barbara Emert, president of Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County Inc., said the first session is from 9 a.m., to 10:30 a.m., and the second will run from 11 a.m., to 12:30 p.m., in the Bethel Schoolhouse at Stately Oaks Plantation, 100 Carriage Lane, in Jonesboro. The nearest cross street is Lake Jodeco Road.
Admission is $5 per person, she said, and children as young as 4 years old can attend.
The event, she said, will also include a breakfast, games and a gift for each child.
Reservations are required, and will be accepted until 2 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 9, added Emert. Those interested in attending, should call (770) 473-0197.
Key said Father Christmas was in charge of keeping the true meaning of Christmas alive, which was the birth of Jesus Christ. He said Santa Claus has become a figure only responsible for bringing gifts to children.
He said he will bring a variety of stories to life for the little ones, such as the miracles that occurred during Jesus’ birth, and nature stories, with a common moral. “They all relate in some way as a moral to a better life to come as God’s children,” he said.
Funny stories will also be included in the storytelling portion of the event, he said.
The stories will last about seven minutes, though it will depend on the audience’s mood, he explained. Children tend to have short attention spans. “You never know until you size up your audience,” he chuckled.
Key said he will be dressed as Father Christmas as the character did in the 1700s. He will sport white hair and beard, a long and draping, velvet robe, framed with fur, and a gold belt. The color scheme will be green and gold, he added.
He said the story of Father Christmas began with St. Nicholas.
According to Key, it is said that around the 1200s in Italy, a father struggling financially, had three daughters and could not provide a proper dowry for them.
At the time, “it was considered a disgrace if a girl did not bring a dowry to marry,” he said. The father, he said, prayed to God, while St. Nicholas, a Catholic bishop, was passing by. The saint heard his prayer and eventually slipped a sack of gold coins for each daughter, to the family, over a period of three years, said Key.
“That is how it started, that the saint would give gifts to children or young people,” he added.
The image of Father Christmas is said to spread from Italy throughout Europe, and made its way to England, he said. Santa Claus, said Key, derives from Father Christmas, and began with the poem “T’swas the Night Before Christmas.”
“The group that was responsible for changing the look of Santa Claus was The Coca-Cola Company,” he said.