Saturday, December 22, 2007

Apple #289: Some Santa Facts

Lots of people say that the Santa Claus we know today is the product of Coca-Cola ads. That's not exactly true. Here's the real chronology:

The 1931 Coca-Cola Santa, drawn by Haddon Sundblom
(Image from the St. Nicholas Center)

  • The Coca-Cola advertisements that depicted Santa in a red suit with white trim and all the works we're so familiar with did not begin to appear until 1931.
  • In the 1920s, popular illustrators like Norman Rockwell and N. C. Wyeth were painting Santas in the well-known red suit, etc.
  • And actually, the first person to draw Santa as fat, jolly, white-whiskered and wearing a red suit was Thomas Nast, in 1869.

This image of Santa in the red suit and red floppy cap etc. appeared around 1869, long before the Coca-Cola ads.
[Dang it, they changed the link. I can't post it here now, but you can click to look at the Thomas Nast drawing.]
(Image from the St. Nicholas Center)

  • In 1832, Clement C. Moore described him in "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (now known as "The Night Before Christmas") as a jolly elf who smoked a pipe and drove a flying sleigh pulled by "eight tiny reindeer."
  • In 1809, Washington Irving's satire, Knickerbocker's History of New York, included several references to St. Nicholas as a jolly Dutch fellow with a clay pipe. Although he meant to make fun of a lot of things that people were doing at the time, the image of St. Nicholas as a fat, pipe-smoking Dutch tradesman is generally regarded as the product of Irving's imagination.

This drawing of St. Nicholas is from 1810. Didn't take long to get from here to the jolly fat elf in a red suit.
[They changed the link for this too.  Click to see the 1810 broadside.)
(Image from the St. Nicholas Center)

  • Colonial Germans in Pennsylvania, as well as other settlers from Europe, celebrated St. Nicholas' feast day in the colonies in the 1700s.
  • Many European and Russian Catholics celebrated the feast day of St. Nicholas for centuries.
  • The original Saint Nicholas was an actual person who was born some time around 260 AD. He was a bishop who lived in various places around Turkey and Asia Minor. Many stories are told about him and it is difficult to determine what is accurate and what is legend. Mainly, he was renowned for his generosity. He gave to those in need, and he often did so in secret, since the people to whom he gave could not have afforded to repay him in any material way.

With that, I leave you for about a week or so. I'm going to my homeland for Christmas celebrations, dog-walking, and much nap-taking.

Merry Christmas from the Apple Lady.

St. Nicholas Center, Saint Nicholas and the Origin of Santa Claus, Santa's FAQ page, Historical Questions
Lone Star Christmas connection, Santa's Origins and FAQs

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