Letter: Rudolph the toasted reindeer

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Sir: St Nicholas was an early 4th-century bishop, probably from Lycia, not Spain (Letters, 19 December). He saved the lives of three boys after they had been cut up and pickled in a salting-tub to serve for bacon, and was thus made patron saint of, among other things, small boys.

The idea that only the well-behaved get presents goes back to an old German custom where an adult dressed up as St Nick and distributed small gifts to "good" children.

Santa underwent the full transformation from child rescuer and occasional gift-giver to behavioural watchdog with the 1934 pop classic "Santa Claus is Coming To Town":

He sees you when you're sleeping

He knows when you're awake

He knows if you've been bad or good

So be good for goodness' sake

He may be known as Father Christmas, but his proliferation on every-high street, rattling tins or staked out in grotto-land, tends to prove the contention that he is slowly turning into Big Brother.

Yours sincerely,

Deborah Jackson


20 December