The fireplace crackling sound, a warm cup of tea, golden, green and red decorations all over the place, presents, chocolates, family and friends gathering around a copious dinner, Christmas and all its magic are approaching at a fast pace. In this December issue, we unveil many secrets hidden behind this enchanting season. Who is this jolly, hearty old man cherished by children from all generations ? Why do we embellish a fir tree to decorate our homes ? Who is Rudolph, this symbolic red-noised reindeer ?
From Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus
The man, as we know him today, all dressed in this flamboyant red robe has a long yet tumultuous history all his own.
Generations after generations, the image of Santa Claus has evolved throughout the years. It all started in the 3rd Century when St. Nicholas was born around 240 A.D. in what is today Turkey. The man, admired for his kindness and generosity became the subject of many legends and a renown protector of children. The anniversary of his death is celebrated on December 6. During the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular Saint in Europe, even after the Protestant Reformation times, Sint-Nikolaas (dutch name) was still a powerful symbol of devotion for people in Holland.
At the end of the 18th Century, Saint Nicholas made his entrance into American popular culture. Mentioned several times in 1773 and 1774 by a New York Magazine, St. Nicholas became Sinter Klaas, which is a shortened version of his dutch name Sint-Nikolaas.
By the following years, the image of Sinter Klaas started to divert, from his three-cornered blue hat, red waist coat and yellow stockings to a man wearing an imposing brimmed-hat and a huge pair of Flemish trunk hose.
As Christmas shopping started to be advertised in the early 19th century, magazines and newspapers were also presenting products and special themed articles related to this period of the year featuring pictures of the newly popular Santa Claus. A “live” Santa Claus made his apparition in a Philadelphia shop in 1841. Santa Claus began to be part of an immense marketing movement in the United States, attracting children with their parents to shops.
The Night Before Christmas
Published on December 23rd of 1823, Clement Clarke Moore wrote a Christmas tale entitled “The Night before Christmas” for his children. Elves distributing presents through chimney and moving from one city to another on a sledge pulled out by 8 reindeers called Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Prancer and Vixen.
In 1939, a ninth rein called Rudolf was added to the cruise, in charge of lighting the way for Santa Claus thanks to his “luminous red nose”. This enchanting tale was translated into several languages and rapidly distributed all around the world.
The birth of Santa Claus, as we know him today
in 1863, “Harper’s Illustrated Weekly” dreamed of a Santa Claus wearing a costume embellished with white fur and wearing a large leather belt. Drawn by Thomas Nast for the first time and during the thirty following years, Santa Claus was represented as a jovial, paunchy old man with a long white beard accompanied by his loyal reindeers.
In 1885, the illustrator defined for the first time the travel map of Santa Claus as well as the place where the old man is living, going from North Pole to the United States to deliver presents to children once a year.
A few month later, the author Georges P. Webster explained that Santa’s toys factory as well as his personal residence were hidden in the North Pole’s ice and snow.
1931. And… That's Coca Cola !
As the myth of Santa Claus and his popularity were growing in America, in 1931, Coca Cola had a brilliant idea which immediately changed the whole perception of Christmas.
The brand launched a new ad campaign staging Santa Claus regaining his strength during the present distribution by drinking Coca-Cola directly from the bottle. Drawn by Haddon Sundblom, Santa Claus appeared dressed with the brand’s colors, Red and White.
Even though accused several times to be a symbol of invasive popularity, criticized yet rejected by catholics for instance, Santa Claus persisted in the course of time.
Whatsoever, arrival of Santa Claus every year remains such a magical moment for all of us, symbol of our love for family and friends.
Fun facts about Christmas!
December 25th ?
Originally, Christmas marks the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. However, Jesus's date of birth is never mentioned in the Bible. Most historians think he was actually born in Spring.
Christmas tree ?
The Christmas tree appeared in 1830’s America but was not really popular until 1846, the year when German Prince Albert brought the symbol to England when he married Queen Victoria. Sketched together in front of the ornamented tree, this Christmas phenomenon immediately became popular.
Stockings on the chimney ?
Here is the original story behind stockings hanged on the chimney : A poor man with three daughters wasn’t able to afford to have them married. One night, St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the man’s chimney so that his oldest daughter would be able to get married, and the bag fell into a stocking that was drying by the fire.
Where does Rudolph come from ?
The ninth reindeer was created by a department store, Montgomery Ward as a marketing campaign to present holiday coloring books to kids. Back then, Rudolph did not have a red nose, negative sign of alcoholism, the department store decided to avoid the idea.
And… That’s it !