Father Christmas is a central part of holiday celebrations for many, and the jolly man in the red suit is everywhere at this time of year.

TV host Piers Morgan was angered by suggestions that Santa Claus could use a festive upgrade to fit in with modern times.

Presenting on Good Morning Britain, the presenter read out a study that one in four people wanted to replace Father Christmas with a woman or gender-neutral figure. The study was referenced by many news outlets when it was released in 2018.

“Twenty-seven per cent of respondents think Santa should be rebranded as female or gender-neutral... I knew this day would come, that Father Christmas would have to go. Piers Morgan

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Half True.

Evidence

Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, has a long association with the festive season. The original inspiration was a monk named St Nicholas, who was born in 280AD.

The monk’s fabled generosity led to more modern characterisation, popularised in Victorian times. It is often falsely claimed that his famous red suit was down to Coca-Cola advertising, but in fact depictions of a red-suited Santa were seen in the late 19th century. Coca-Cola only started using the character in the 1930s.

No, Santa Claus was not first dressed in red by Coca-Cola

So do one-in-four want Santa to be made gender-neutral? Let’s look at the survey.

The idea of creating a ‘modern santa’ was canvassed by a logo creation company in 2018.

They took suggestions from 400 respondents via Google survey across the US and UK. These suggestions were then voted on by 4,000 people.

The question relating to Santa’s gender was: “If you could ‘rebrand’ Santa for modern society, what gender would he be?”

This is not a neutrally phrased question, as it implies Santa Claus is being ‘rebranded’. It does not simply state which gender Santa Claus should be, and may have led to respondents being more likely to choose one of the options.

Claim that Scottish Parliament banned gingerbread men is Mostly False

There were 1,015 votes on the options, which were male, female or gender neutral. Of these, 501 were from the UK.

The vast majority, 369, said that Santa Claus should remain male, while 53 thought the character should be female, and 73 thought a gender-neutral Santa would be best. This equates to 73.71 per cent supporting Santa being male and 26.29 suggesting either a female or gender-neutral alternative.

The methodology of the poll is not publicly available so we cannot say whether or not weighting was done to ensure a properly balanced cross-section of UK society. However, the number of respondents, 501, is smaller than most UK-wide polling so the result should be treated with caution, along with the phrasing and context of the question.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Half True

While a poll did find around one in four respondents wanted Santa Claus to be either gender-neutral or female, this should be treated with caution. The methodology of the survey, which was conducted by a logo design company rather than a recognised polling organisation, as well as the small sample size of 501 and the wording of the question itself may have skewed the results.

This claim is half true.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our Facebook group.

Photo thanks to iStock/Wavebreakmedia

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