In 2009-10, Ruth and Rod were living in Mahone Bay, and wished to meet  residents and contribute is some way to the community.  The Mahone Bay Father Christmas Festival was, they agreed, a high point in their years living in Lunenburg County. Although they knew little of its inner workings, they hit upon the idea of supporting it in some manner. Ruth had fund-raising experience  and Rod web-weaving skills and felt they could donate in kind since they had little disposable cash. Knowing that MICA used  auctions as an effective fund-raiser, they both went to work.

During the Scarecrow Festival (centre photo) and for some time after an outdoor Father Christmas figure was out and about advertising the event. The local pottery produced this tree decoration feature in their window. When Ruth had permission to proceed following consultation and direction through the office staff at Mahone Bay Centre, she asked for one of these as an auction item.

An Inn. There could hardly be a better location for a Christmas auction. Wendy
and George Newman were new owners back then. Their Father Christmas figure was already in place in late November. Lots of parking in the backyard and on nearby streets. The streets are typically free of snow during November although leaves left the trees early in that month.

Ruth and Rod took to the streets to solicit auction goods from merchants. A very good exercise as an outing and a means of meeting the folk. At left, Ruth clipboard in hand, approaching a part owner of the Biscuit Eater Cafe and Books who was assembling a festival figurine. That shop changed ownership for a second time in 2016.


A little later. Ruth was very successful at getting promises of some little trinket from almost all businessmen and women. Ruth did not want to be responsible for handling cash at the auction and was able to get the help of Marie..... from the staff at the Mahone Centre. If the money realized was not used in the current year it was hoped it would help finance the event in 2010.

The date was set for late afternoon November 17, giving lots of clearance for those later involved in actually setting up figurines and arranging other events.  A wet snow fell and probably kept back attendance from remote areas.  Rod had set up on line auction bidding pages, but it was a hurried job and there was no interaction after noon of that day, which meant that late bids by e-mail were lost. Wendy and Ruth did a lot of the picture hanging. The small picture at left shows a bit of the interior in that annex, which Ms. Truswell later turned into an art gallery.

You may have missed George's contribution to the festive decorations?  In the main house free snacks, although Ruth (not a teetotaler) turned thumbs down on alcoholic beverages to protect those who were driving. Among other things, Ruth had scrounged a weekend stay at the Atlantica in nearby Western Shore.  R&R did the rounds to pick up a large quantity of smaller items including gift certificates.

Ruth and Mary and Rod knew local artists and managed to assemble a few minor works.  The auctioneer was Vaughan Renzo seen in action above announcing door prize winners. Mary and Ruth are seen at right in the larger picture.

At left the layout in the gallery early in the day before cloud cover took over.  Small paintings are seen on shelves.  Had the Truswell dogs been up for sale... Items on the window shelf were sold. It took a few hours and ended after dark.

Flickr is an image hosting and video hosting website and web services suite that was created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo on March 20, 2005. Verizon announced that it had entered a deal to acquire Yahoo and Flickr in 2017. Rod opened a free account in 2007 and was soon after informed that he would have to pay to access stored photos. His 2740 photos have since been released as a photostream probably because Google has no restrictions. Recently image size and quality at this web site and google+ has increased.

There were many quality items, including donations by the Truswell and Mackay-Brown families. Rod did not donate a painting having decided that in future he would not go into competition with himself with respect to sales. Auction prices are fickle and the Tom Ward painting (bottom left) did not realize its expected selling price.

Generally speaking a handworks theme was adhered to.

That sculpin photograph was donated  by Gilbert van Ryckevorsel, a well known local marine photographer . The CPR tourist booklet featured  artwork by Group of Seven member Franz Hal.  Only the more valuable works were physically auction off. Minor items were subject to silent auction. Second from top left:   Ruth identifies winning bidders. Third, Rod was self-serving in donating two original watercoloured pen and ink Father Christmas originals produced as the prototype for Christmas cards to be sold as a further benefit for this festival. The auction realized about $2,300, not bad for a last minute idea.

There were a dozen designs reproduced on card stock using a $49 ink jet printer. R&R bought all materials including ink, paper envelopes and plastic sleeves. They then packaged and distributed the product for sale from local retail outlets, donating proceeds after actual cost to the festival fund. These Christmas cards were created using photos taken in 2007 and 2008.  Rod says that sketches like this (there were 12 in all) are a very easy matter, which is why he did not retain them to be reprinted.  Many of these figurines get new outfits with the passage of time, and he intended to repeat this effort using newer material in 2010.

Some figures from a subsequent year shows quite a different assembly of Father Christmas statues than those seen in 2010.   R&R were not invited to the traditional wrap-up party hosted by the festival organizer.
Neither the auction nor the cards were subsequently re offered. Next, a look at the actual Father Christmas figurines in 2010.

father christmas

These illustrations were created a little more than a century ago. The English Father Christmas is not Santa Claus in terms of origin. He had a separate development from the Dutch  Sinterklaas a relative of St. Nicholas A personification of Christmastide or Yule-tide he was seen as an adult visitor promising good times and overindulgence in food and drink.

Father Christmas was not a gift-giver like Good Saint Nick and did not pay any attention to children until Queen Victoria reshaped him to suit her family needs. She and her consort were Germans and superimposed some of the character seen in the Protestant Weihnachtmann of their home country on Old Father Christmas. That combination word implies a man who is "king for a night," one installed in a ceremonial office by a higher authority. Whein in a German word translated as, "sanctified, consecrated, blessed, ordained or inaugurated." The German Protestant who were the first settlers of Mahone Bay came here a full century before the Victorian era, so one might ask, "Why Father Christmas?"

The question, "Why not Santa Claus or even Saint Nicholas?" is simpler to answer. Following the Protestant Reformation in Germany, led by Martin Luther,  that country was torn apart by a century of bitter Catholic - Protestant warfare.  The south remained with Rome (green dots) while the north (blue dots) became dominantly Lutheran. Luther was opposed to the concept of Roman Catholic saints and his flock veered away from the RC Saint Nickolas and his nefarious travel companion. Lutherans centred their Christmas activities on the Christ Child, who in later practice evolved into a female companion, an arrangement not unlike that of the Teutonic pagan Odinn and his camp-  follower, Frigga.

That lad was sometimes spoken of as the creator-god, but he also gave men other gifts of life and death.  He did ride the night sky at the Yule as a collector of souls of the dead and blasphemers, but he also threw down meat from the heavens for those he preferred. He promised an enjoyable after life for those who died in battle and sent those who died a straw-death to dwell with the goddess Hel. He is said to have taught men the runes and gave them the formula for beer. He did not have eight tiny reindeer but his steed was eight-legged as pictured above.  The Old Norse inscription topside was Norse mythology, and that last word embraced an alternate name for Odinn, the "Allfather."

These two antique German postcards express the division between Protestant and Catholic approaches to family values.  Luther became a married priest with a large family and he took a left wing stance with respect controlling behaviour, while the Catholics represented Saint Nicholas as a dispenser of gifts or punishment. It has since been shown that positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement.

If you are truly interested in arcane information this web site is recommended.   As this writer notes from 1870 on Father Christmas began to merge with Santa Claus in both appearance and his interest in gift-giving. By the way that Coca-Cola ad, seen above right, was introduced in 1923 and after that red became the standard colour for those seeking to represent the attire of either mythic figure.

A living man dressed like this and carrying what the Gaels called "the crooked rod" appeared on Mahone Bay Streets during the early days of the Festival. He was representing Saint Nicholas as Paul Seltzer has done for a decade.

This roadside station protected a white-clothed Saint Nicholas last year.


Rod took this photo of Father Christmas engaging in his annual reunion with the saxophone-playing saint. His garb in not quite that of Santa Claus.

In times past another authentic Germanic Weihnachtmann was abroad on the streets during the Festival. Images of him endure.

Rod's photo from earlier times and another community.

His name translates as "High Father." Many of the larger-than-life figurines around Mahone Bay have been based on well-known local people. That at right greeted visitors to the Welcome Centre.

To which one might add: There are lights and shadows in every endeavour.

A schedule of events is important, and this one went on line and remained there after it became apparent that there were a couple of unfortunate bits of misinformation. Corrections were made in the printed version, but increasingly people are getting their prior knowledge of coming events from the web.  It only people were adept at scrubbing out-of-date or incorrect material before it leads to misconceptions and disappointment for potential customers. That "Fantasy Experience" was poorly represented in spite of the fact that it has always been a major draw.

It was intended to house that crowd-pleaser in the Masonic Hall, but it was declared unsafe and a no-go for the fantasy just a short time before the curtain went up on the Festival.

As for those big horses, they were spooked last year and had a run-away accident.  In both cases there were probably insurance considerations.

Finally, Mahone Bay in early winter can be a windy, rainy place, and this has caused damage in the past.

Attempts to protect those over sized figurines from the elements were not always successful and could be unsightly. Over the years an increasing number of store owners rejected the idea of struggling to maintain them or took them indoors, lessening the visual impact.

In this part of the world, one never knows how many crows will congregate as a murder on any given day. November spells double trouble punctuated with occasional singular joy.

Twelve years ago things were less expensive in terms of goods and services and pocket books more open to generosity.

But attempts to get attention were less sophisticated and the earliest fantasy experiences involved very little overhead.

About mid way through its history the Father Christmas Festival still had a make-do look but was creating increasing interest.

Back then, the Bardons who owned Suttles & Seawinds, a very stable business, were able to underwrite part of the cost of Vickie's fantasy land by renting the ground floor of their barn to vendors from the surrounding countryside.

in 2010 they housed this castle, and a few other tableaux, in the loft of that barn, and solicited donations. It was a good show for its time and the price was right.

Pink Elephant On Parade as Disney would say. We will not speculate, but this historic building went on sale last year and sold. Someone was interested in speculation and bought the place, renting space back to the Bardons.  They rejuvenated the barn, but it became a rental property.  That's why the "Fantasy Experience" tried to relocate at the Masonic Hall and ended as an installation in Mahone Bay Centre. Now that was big time "shadow."

As we write much needed repair and paint is being applied to the main building.

Another Father Christmas figure seen at Kedy's Inlet back in 2010. Mahone Bay has five Protestant churches but Catholics have to travel to Old Town Lunenburg for services, which probably explains why the Festival is not named The Saint Nicholas Festival. This in site of the fact that the final day of celebration comes immediately before Saint Nicholas Day on December 6.

Images that follow were all taken in 2010.Today, Christians and non-Christians often regard a late December date as the time for a family celebration involving gift-giving. This custom commenced in 1535 when Martin Luther touted a later date as an alternative to  St. Nicholas Day. He hoped to put Christ back in Christmas.

Figurines were at first almost exclusively street decorations. In Martin Luther's Germany many Protestants began to identify the gift bringer as the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date of giving gifts was reset to Christmas Eve rather than December 6.

The Europeanized Christkindl now bears little resemblance to the infant of Bethlehem since it is often depicted with blond hair and angelic wings and is sometimes decidedly female in appearance.  Some folklorists say that while Luther may have intended that infant as an avatar of Jesus, it came to be reinterpreted as an angelic being assigned to distribute gifts among men. In some processions at Christmastide a figurine representing the Christ Child appears along with a separate figure of the bay Jesus.

Children are told that the Christkind is an unseen spirit whose coming is unannounced and whose departure is announced by the ringing of a small bell. When that is heard
the family enters the living room, where the Christmas tree has been put up,and commence opening presents. There are of course, variations of this tradition.

Kris Kringle is an Americanized version of the Christkindl or Christkindel. are diminutive versions of Christkind, indicating a Christ-like adult. A well-known figure is the Christkind seen at at the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, represented by a young woman chosen every year for this task.  A spirited girl, decidedly not a nature spirit.

Kris Kringle is known in Lunenburg County, and in times past adults went Kriskringling or belsnicking, dressed in costumes and masked begging treats and drinks from door to door during the Yuletide. Mumming is believed to have pagan roots.

When they appear in Lunenburg County they are now confined to Christmastide parades.  Belsnickel or Belschnickel, Belznickle, Belznickel, Pelznikel, Pelznickel, is from pelzen or belzen, German "to wallop" or "to drub." and Nickel being a hypocorism of the given name Nikolaus. He is usually seen as a crotchety, fur-clad loner, but it is speculated that he springs from Knecht Ruprecht the companion of Saint Nicholas in the folklore of southwestern Germany. Hence, Good Saint Nick and Old Saint Nick, the word "saint"not having original connotations of goodness. Belsnicking is said to be preserved in Germanic parts of Pennsylvania, and Rod saw it it action in New Brunswick in the 1950s.

The year continues to be 2010. Amongst the Pennsylvania Germans, Belsnickel visits homes a week or more before to Christmas. He would rap on the door or window children who greeted him at the door had to answer a question or sing a song in the interest of goodwill. In exchange he would toss candies onto the floor. If the children were too greedy for the treats, they were driven off by Belsnickel's switch. The tradition of Belsnickel was originally rather benign but when packs of them started to harass wealthy families, the custom of demanding food and drink for party purposes was largely curtailed. In Lunenburg old time mummers were mute but excluded from the pack if a host family could identify him or her.

Sven Yargs says, "The figure of Kris Kringle has lurked in German American folklore since the early 1800s, but the name "Kris Kringle" has had many antecedents, including Christ-kindel, Christ-kinkle, Krischtkintle, Christkingle, Chryskingle, Grisht-kindle, kriskinckles, Kriss Kringle, and Krist Kringle. It seems highly probable that "Kris Kringle" owes its preeminence among the various spelling options to the "Kriss Kringle" books of the 1840s and after, since there certainly was no widespread agreement before 1842."


"The Christkind was adopted in Catholic areas during the 19th century, while it began to be gradually replaced by a more or less secularized version of Saint Nicholas, known as the Weihnachtsmann  in Protestant regions." - Wikipedia

The Weihnachtsmann resembles the English Father Christmas more than he does Santa Claus. Like Father Christmas, he personifies the Christmas season and has few literary pretensions.  Unlike his English counterpart, he is commonly pictured as old and tired, a bearded old man trudging through snow-covered streets, shoulders drooping. carrying a small Christmas tree over his shoulder. "Perhaps the image of the exhausted, elderly gift bringer is meant to represent the age of the year, which at Christmas time has nearly expired." says that "Martin Luther devised the story of the “Christkind”, an angel who magically, without ever being seen, delivers presents to the children of the German-speaking world on Christmas Eve. The (Protestant) Dutch, however, remained loyal to their “Sinterklaas”, so much so that they took their version of St. Nicholas with them when they emigrated to the United States."

Santa Claus became immensely popular in North America and soon made his way back across the Atlantic to conquer the hearts of European children. In Germany, he was rebranded as the “Weihnachtsmann”, the “Christmas Man,” in the northern part of the country where there was some resistance to reestablishing a saint.

"Fairly quickly, however, he became associated with the commercial exploitation of the Christmas holiday, and a Christian backlash ensued, which has now evolved into a philosophical and theological battle between the sweet, angel-faced “Christkind” with gossamer hair and the jolly, red-clad old fellow with the flowing beard. Some places in Germany have declared themselves a “weihnachstmannfreie nikolausZone” and refuse to display any images associated with Santa Claus..."

"The Bonifatiuswerk, an organization of German Catholics, maintains a website to encourage the banning of Santa Claus from German homes and businesses. In Austria, the Pro Christkind organization has dedicated itself to the same pursuit. Clearly, the battle lines are drawn, but fortunately the battle has not degraded into a smear campaign so far."

The web-weaver at Deutchedrang says,"The Bonifatiuswerk explicitly calls for a fair fight, but I still feel for the German children of today, who may be caught up in this epic battle if their parents choose to take sides, and I get the uneasy feeling that the “Great German Christmas Debate” detracts as much from the purpose of Christmas as the commercialism that is its major bone of contention."


"It also makes me yearn for those less-complicated times half a century ago when the living room door was locked on Christmas Eve and the Christkind magically deposited gifts for the good little boys and girls. The details didn’t really matter, but the spirit of love and giving did and should still be the overriding purpose of Christmas, no matter which side we take in the “Great Christmas Debate.” And that probably explains why the descendants of "Foreign Protestants" decided in favour of the easily pronounced and similar Father Christmas.

Lunenburg County "belsnicking" was also called "santying" while the loot gathered from willing and unwilling neighbours was termed "brouse." This unusual word more often described winter feed for wild animals" giving the suggestion that mumming was not a civilized occupation. Above, one of the Wise Men from the Zack & Nemo display.

So, in Mahone bay it is neither exactly like Christmas in Britain or Germany, countries which have contributed folklore and mythology to the festival at Yuletide, which is quite secular.

For a few years the Lions Club  rented JoAnn's for the two weekends of festival time and sold trees and greenery from this location. The area was protected from pilfering on weekdays by netting.

"English personifications of Christmas were first recorded the 15th century, with Father Christmas himself first appearing in the mid 17th century in the aftermath of the English Civil War. The Puritan-controlled English government had legislated to abolish Christmas, considering it papist, and had outlawed its traditional customs." - Wikipedia.  No wonder he looked shell-shocked!

"Royalist political pamphleteers, linking the old traditions with their cause, adopted Old Father Christmas as the symbol of 'the good old days' of feasting and good cheer. Following the Restoration in 1660, Father Christmas's profile declined. His character was maintained during the late 18th and into the 19th century by the Christmas folk plays later known as mummers plays."

Talk about Rudolph's nose?  Father Christmas used to be a tippler. "Until Victorian times, Father Christmas was concerned with adult feasting and merry-making. He had no particular connection with children, nor with the giving of presents, nocturnal visits, stockings or chimneys."

"But as later Victorian Christmases developed into child-centric family festivals, Father Christmas became a bringer of gifts. The popular American myth of Santa Claus arrived in England in the 1850s and Father Christmas started to take on Santa's attributes."

"The popular American myth of Santa Claus arrived in England in the 1850s and Father Christmas started to take on Santa's attributes. By the 1880s the new customs had become established, with the nocturnal visitor sometimes being known as Santa Claus and sometimes as Father Christmas.Any residual distinctions between Father Christmas and Santa Claus largely faded away in the early years of the 20th century, and modern dictionaries consider the terms Father Christmas and Santa Claus to be synonymous."

The respective characters are now to all intents and purposes indistinguishable, although some people are still said to prefer the term 'Father Christmas' over 'Santa', nearly 150 years after Santa's arrival in England. According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Father Christmas is considered to be  'British rather than a US name for Santa Claus, associating him specifically with Christmas. The name carries a somewhat socially superior cachet and is thus preferred by certain advertisers.'" Socially superior? I guess he does dress regally, while Santa has a plebeian costume.

Two local merchants opted for photo-realism and royal costumes.

But this Father Christmas got the gold star for look-down-your-nose snobbery.

The tendency to anthropomorphism Father Christmas and give him a helpmate dates back to Victorian times when Vicky was enjoying Royal prerogatives and family life with Albert.  Mother Christmas has a counterpart in Mrs. Claus.  "She is known for making cookies with the elves, caring for the reindeer, and preparing toys with her husband. Her first name is a mystery."

In Rod's childhood, his mother Lois Guptill, from Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy introduced him to Mother Goody. She was a gift-giver who arrived after the New Year leaving minor toys and sweets. Note that Santa's wife in the poem refers to herself as "Little Goody Santa Claus." The word "goody" is confluent with "good" and "god" and Mother God (or Goddess) was an alternate name for Odin's wife. Odin was a wanderer, "a lazy woodman." Frigga, had a wandering eye while he was absent.

The time top takes us next to another reality created largely by women, with set-up of the larger elements left to men. In the half-dozen years between then and now, the number of street-side figurines diminished but Viki Bardon's indoor show increased, finally crowding out that gourmet market which moved west along Main Street to the former home of the Salt Spray Restaurant. Former Mayor Joe Feeney refers to "challenges" for the "fantasy experience" which will be mentioned in context. R&R's personal tour of 2016 Festival ate up about seven hours of time and was accomplished in two walk abouts. That is what's "Next." The full South Shore Breaker story was on line at this writing.