12 Studies of Christmas: Santa Claus

Father Christmas, Santa Claus, jolly old Saint Nick. Whatever his name, every year a lot of us allow a man we've never met (save for a few times at a pop-up grotto in a shopping mall somewhere) to break into our houses in the middle of the night and leave us presents under a tree and hidden in socks. As part of our 12 studies of Christmas series, we surveyed 100 people in the UK to find out what they think of the jolly man in red.

What's his name?

First up, what do we call him? It's a pretty even split with 53% calling him Santa Claus, and the other 47% Father Christmas. No-one calls him Saint Nicholas (or Nick) or any other name as their first choice!

Is he real?

The all-important question, is Santa real? A whopping 83% of respondents are non-believers but most of them did think Santa was real when they were children; very few people made it to secondary school still believing, with most people having their realisations between the ages of 8 and 10. Only two people never believed in Father Christmas! A third had the fun spoiled by older siblings or friends at school but 44% of those surveyed figured it out on their own, either by finding their presents stashed around the house, catching their parents filling their stockings, or by recognising the handwriting on the gifts!

Some specific responses worth noting:

Real Santas did not get drunk (back in the days)

Documentary on tv

Unreal scenario when considered

One father in particular should be commended for his level of commitment because one respondent caught their

Dad put[ting] fake reindeer whiskers in a carrot

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Which list are you on?

Santa is famous for his naughty and nice lists and 86% think they escaped a lump of coal this year, with many citing this difficult year as their reasoning.

Lots mentioned lockdown

Not been able to do anything naughty, been stuck inside all year!

while others thought Santa would be more lenient for 2020 because we all need a bit of a break

I've been deprived enough of my luxuries this year!

Of the 14 who said they would be on the naughty list, many seem to be proud of their poor behaviour and claim they are always on the list (with a mixture of smiling and winking emoji just to prove the point). One person simply chalked their fate up to

I just assume I've done something to annoy Santa

What snacks do you leave out on Christmas Eve?

So let’s say Santa is stopping by your house, what snacks do you leave out to power him through his round-the-world journey? Most people mimic Scrooge and leave nothing, but the most popular offerings are mince pies for the man himself, not forgetting carrots for the reindeer.

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What's in your stocking?

Finally, it’s Christmas morning. Santa has come and gone and your stockings are full but what’s at the toe? Let’s ignore the third of people who don’t have a stocking at all and the traditional orange comes top of the leaderboard with 24%; many people seem very particular about their species of citrus, specifying “satsuma”, “tangerine” and “clementine” but they're all lumped together here because really, who can tell the difference? “Chocolate orange” is a category in itself because while it should be under “chocolate”, it is such a nod to the time-honoured tradition that it could almost be under “orange”. And, of course, one person from the naughty list knew they’d be getting coal.

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Whatever your usual festive period looks like, this year is bound to be a little different. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, well done for making it through. As one participant put it

No one is on the naughty list considering the year we have had

Let’s hope Santa agrees!

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