Miles Kington: Cultural icon or seasonal entrepreneur?

The North Pole is just an off-shore address for tax purposes. Most of our work is done in Asian sweatshops
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Listening to Radio 4's Book of the Week this week, Jeremy Seal's very interesting Santa: A Life, all about how Saint Nicholas evolved into Santa Claus, I found myself wondering how Father Christmas himself would come across on Radio 4, in person.

Well, the mighty computer at The Independent is always on hand to settle speculation like that, so I put that very question to it. To my amazement, it actually generated a whole selection of familiar programmes, all now featuring Father Christmas himself. Here is an edited sample of a few...

From 'Start The Week'

Andrew Marr: Thank you, Judas Iscariot, and your new book, Thirty Pieces of Silver is out on Thursday. Now, there's no very obvious link between treachery and the giving of presents, so I won't bother to look for one - I'll just turn straight to Father Christmas, who is giving this year's Walmart lecture on "Gifts: A Cultural Quagmire". I imagine you of all people have a very good perspective on the art of present giving.

Father Christmas: Yes. (Long pause)

Marr: Is that all you wish to say?

Father C: No. It was a small joke. Ho ho ho!

Marr: Ah - now that's one thing I wanted to ask you about. Do you in fact say "ho ho ho" a lot or is that just a myth?

Father C: Ho ho ho! That is like asking me whether Barry Norman ever said: "And why not?" or Michael Caine ever really said: "Not a lot of people know that".

Marr: Ah, but did they?

Father C: Did they indeed! I suggest this year you ask Father Christmas for a copy of Did They Really Say That?, which is a hot tip for this year's best-selling showbiz book. Other books coming up fast are Andrew Flintoff's Best Hangover Cures, Michael Palin's No Christmas Book This Year, I'm Afraid...

Marr: Thank you. Fascinating, but we must move on now...

From 'Quote Unquote'

Nigel Rees: Now, this is up your street, Father Christmas. Who said: "It is better to give than to receive?"

Father C: Um-m-m-m... It's Shakespeare, isn't it...?

Rees: No-o-o-o . . .

From 'Midweek'

Libby Purves: Thank you, Judas Iscariot. I wonder if I would have had the courage to betray the saviour of the world. Anyone here think they could have? No? Then we'll move on to Father Christmas, a man who has done more for children than any person I can think of, often at considerable sacrifice. You must almost dread Christmas, don't you?

Father C: Not at all. When you have a properly run worldwide organisation, you take things like this in your stride. For us, Christmas is over by October.

Purves: But the North Pole is surely a very odd place to run it from.

Father C: Oh, that's just an offshore address for tax purposes. Most of our work is done in sweatshops in Asia.

Purves: How tragic. Is that really true?

Father C: No - it's a joke! Ho ho ho!

From 'In Our Time', with Melvyn Bragg

Bragg: Hello. Today we are going to be looking at annuality, the phenomenon whereby certain events occur only once a year. With me today I have Father Christmas, visiting Professor of Life Cycle Studies at Edinburgh. Now, Professor Christmas, annuality is not an entirely man-made concept, as the recurring seasons are natural, but at the same time man is the only animal who celebrates his own birthdates! Can you enlarge on that?

Father C: Does that mean that's all you know about it?

Bragg: Yes. I don't have time for a lot of homework.

Father C: Ho ho ho!

From 'Loose Ends'

Ned Sherrin: Tell us, Father Christmas, didn't you once have a rather embarrassing encounter with Sir Michael Redgrave and five French hens?

Father C: Ho ho ho!

Why not ask for the tape "Father Christmas on Radio 4" for Christmas this year?