Old Father Christmas & His Yule Goat
Interestingly, I immediately came across this image, which is so similar that I felt the artist must have based her artwork on it. This earlier version is titled "Old Christmas" and was illustrated in 1836 by Robert Seymour for "The Book of Christmas" by Thomas Kibble Hervey. Santa with his Yule Goat appear quite often in Christmas cards too during Victorian times.
I thought the goat might have been a nod to the old horned Gods or perhaps, because in other British Isle traditions like Puck's Fair and May Day, goats are sometimes crowned with flowers during harvest and summer festivals. He's an important little fellow associated with harvest and sun and so could easily be associated with Winter Solstice as well.
But of course there is the Yule Goat or Julbock in Scandinavia! My first introduction to the Yule Goat was many, many years ago when we bought a little boxed set of Christmas ornaments of straw goats from IKEA, the Swedish furniture company.
The Julbock in Scandanavia is thought perhaps to be derived from the two goats who pulled the sky chariot for the God Thor (Norse); or with the God Devac (Slavic) who was depicted as a white goat. Originally he demanded gifts, or offerings at this time of year, probably in exchange for returning the sun, and as the traditions changed and Santa Claus appeared, the white goat became the giver of gifts instead.
But getting back to why the artist called this "The British Father Christmas" and why Robert Seymour, a British illustrator depicted Santa in this way in the first place ... well, maybe the Yule Goat trotted his way on over to Britain and merged in wonderfully with the already existing English traditions surrounding the goat. Now as for the Wassail bowl ...
Bibliography: Victorian Christmas by Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, 1997; Wikipedia, Yule Goat, October 2020; The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas, The Rational Heathen, Tyra Ulfdottir, 2017
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2020
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