Merry Essex-mas! How 'Father Christmas' lived in TOWIE county and died 500 years agoArchive entry shows Father Christmas was buried in the county in 1564Essex Record Office archives show a host of Christmas family members
14:42 GMT, 23 December 2012
Historians have uncovered evidence that Father Christmas lived in Essex and died nearly 500 years ago.
Archivists at the county's records' office have discovered a brief archive entry that states Father Christmas was laid to rest at a churchyard in the village of Dedham on May 30, 1564.
It simply reads: 'The 30th Day, Father Christmas was buried.'
Deep in the archive: Historians have discovered that Father Christmas died in the mid 16th Century
Laid to rest: The churchyard in Dedham where Father Christmas was buried in 1564
A spokesman for Essex Record Office said that careful searching had uncovered a whole host of Christmas family members living in the county – well known for its reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex
He said: 'Christmas was not an uncommon surname in these parts around that time.
Don't panic: Everyone knows the real Father Christmas is alive and living at the North Pole
'It appears with some frequency in north Essex and south Suffolk – by 1881 the name was still largely concentrated in the south east of England.
'The title 'father' is most likely the usage given in The Oxford English Dictionary as 'a respectful title given to an old and venerable man'.
Other Essex entries for the Christmas family in the 16th and 17th Century included a farmer, an inn holder, a brewer, a carpenter and a family of bailiffs.
The spokesman added: 'To live to an old age was quite an achievement for Father Christmas in 1564 – only about one half to one third of people lived to see their 16th birthday, but if you survived that long you might live to see 50 or 60.'
Luckily Christmas will not have to be cancelled this year though as everyone knows the real Father Christmas lives at the North Pole.
The festive tradition began as part of old English midwinter festival with Old Father Christmas being the bringer of Spring who enjoyed feasting while dressed all in green.
Looking back: The Dedham parish record recording when Father Christmas was buried.
Book worms: Careful searching by archivists uncovered a host of Christmas family members
Popular: Christmas was not an uncommon surname in north Essex in the 16th Century
This character was also the inspiration for the Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens' tale A Christmas Carol.
The modern imagining of Father Christmas – or Santa Claus – as a tubby bearded man dressed in a red and white suit borrows heavily from the Dutch Saint Nick, Sinterklaas, who delivers presents to children on December 6.
Contrary to popular belief, Coca Cola's famous Christmas advertising campaigns did not give him his famous red and white outfit – it was merely a lucky coincidence.
Father Christmas is known in countries across the globe including Brazil (Papai Noel), France (Phre Nokl), Italy (Babbo Natale), India (Baba Christmas), Portugal (Pai Natal) and Spain (Papa Noel).
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