In 1885 Father Christmas made his first appearance in a British department store.
This was Beales in Bournemouth and his annual arrival during the 20th century was much like the appearance in procession of St Nicholas in the main square of Nancy in Lorraine last Saturday.
The French town was crowded with families seeing St Nicholas arrive in a carriage for a balcony appearance. Lots of letters had been written to St Nicholas and posted in special post boxes just as children used to in Beales when writing to Father Christmas.
Father Christmas is derived from Nicholas who is also responsible for the Christmas stocking tradition.
St Nicholas from Turkey is an example of Christian charity in action and today he is patron not only of of children (of course) but pawnbrokers. apothecaries, parish clerks and sailors.
Cities adopting Nicholas as patron include Aberdeen, Liverpool, Portsmouth and New York.
Major observances of St Nicholas Day today Thursday 6 December take place at Bari in Italy, Brussels in Belgium, Demre in Turkey and Alicante in Spain.
***See St Nicholas (looking much like Father Christmas) arrive in style at Canterbury Cathedral this Saturday at 1pm.