“In the Beginning there was St Nicolas today there is Santa Claus”

A medieval fresco depicting St Nicholas from t...

A medieval fresco depicting St Nicholas from the Boyana Church, near Sofia, Bulgaria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#AceHistoryNews says St. Nicholas was born in 280 AD, in Patara, a city of Lycia, in Asia Minor. He became the gift giver of Myra. His gifts were given late at night, so that the gift giver’s identity would remain a secret. St Nicholas was eventually named the patron saint of children, sailors, Russia and Greece.

St. Nicholas was a Christian priest, who later became a bishop. He was a rich person, and traveled the country helping people, giving gifts of money and other presents. St. Nicholas did not like to be seen when he gave away presents, so the children of the day were told to go to sleep quickly or he would not come! Nothing has changed and Santa Claus will not arrive next Christmas unless the children go to sleep early.

A famous story about St. Nicholas, is about a poor man who had no money to give to his three daughters on their wedding day. St Nick dropped bags of gold into the stockings which the girls had left to dry by the fire. The sisters found the gold and ever since, children have hung up stockings on Christmas Eve hoping that they will be filled with presents by Christmas morning.

Despite being quite young Nicholas had earned a reputation for kindliness and wisdom. In the year 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian commanded all the citizens of the Roman Empire, which included Asia Minor, to worship him as a god.

Christians believed in one god and one god alone, so their conscience would not allow them to obey the Emperor’s order. Angered by their stubbornness, Diocletian warned the Christians that they would be imprisoned. The Emperor carried out the threat and St Nicholas who resisted too was also imprisoned. For more than five years, St Nicholas was confined to a small cell. He suffered from cold, hunger, and thirst, but he never wavered in his beliefs. In 313, when Diocletian resigned, and Constantine came to power Nicholas was released, and he returned to his post as Bishop of Myra. He continued his good works and became even wiser and more understanding by the time of his death on December 6, 343.

In the eyes of the Catholics, a saint is someone who has lived such a holy life that, after dying and going to heaven, he or she is still able to help people on earth. They often become the patron to different groups of people – one such was children and many legends sprang up to explain his presence.

By 450, churches in Asia Minor and Greece were being named in honor of him. By 800, he was officially recognized as the a saint by the Eastern Catholic Church.

In the 1200’s, December sixth began to be celebrated as Bishop Nicholas Day in France.

Visit from St. Nicholas. Illus. by Louis Prang

Visit from St. Nicholas. Illus. by Louis Prang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By end of the 1400’s, St Nicholas was the third most beloved religious figure, after Jesus and Mary. There were more than 2000 chapels and monasteries named after him.

In the 1500’s people in England stopped worshipping St Nicholas and favoured more another gift giving figure Father Christmas. Over the centuries, St. Nicholas’ popularity grew, and many people in Europe made up new stories that showed his concern for children. The name Santa Claus was derived from the Dutch Sinter Klass pronunciation of St. Nicholas. Early Dutch settlers in New York (once called New Amsterdam) brought their traditions of St Nicholas. As children from other countries tried to pronounce Sinter Klass, this soon became Santa Klass, which was settled as Santa Claus. The old bishop’s cloak with mitre, jewelled gloves and crozier were soon replaced with his red suit and clothing seen in other modern images.

Santa Claus History in the USA begins 4 centuries ago: 

The History of Santa Claus in America-
A story of its own.  In America the History of Santa goes back four centuries. The  evolution of the character as we know him today is a remarkable one with world-wide implications.
Santa Claus History in the USA begins 4 centuries ago
1600’s: The Puritans made it illegal to mention St. Nicolas’ name. People were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols.
17th century: Dutch immigrants brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas.
1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus.
1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with St. Nicolas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas. 
1809: Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas in his book “A History of New York.” Nicolas is described as riding into town on a horse.
1812: Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas riding over the trees in a wagon.
1821: William Gilley printed a poem about “Santeclaus” who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a single reindeer.
1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by many to have written a poem “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas,” which became better known as The Night before Christmas.” Santa is portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder, Prancer, and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary, Henry Livingston, Jr. Two have since been renamed Donner and Blitzen.
1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a “Criscringle” outfit and climb the chimney of his store.
1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper’s Magazine. These continued through the 1890’s.
1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army — an early example of psychological warfare.
1897: Francis P ChurchEditor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter  from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. It has become known as the Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus letter. 4
1920’s: The image of Santa had been standardized to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim. 5
1931: Haddon Sundblom, illustrator for The Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images in their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue to the present day.
1939 Copywriter Robert L. May of the Montgomery Ward Company created a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. May had been “often taunted as a child for being shy, small and slight.” He created an ostracized reindeer with a shiny red nose who became a hero one foggy Christmas eve. Santa was part-way through deliveries when the visibility started to degenerate. Santa added Rudolph to his team of reindeer to help illuminate the path. A copy of the poem was given free to Montgomery Ward customers. 6
1949: Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn’t let him play in their reindeer games because of his strange looking nose. The song was recorded by Gene Autry and became his all-time best seller. Next to “White Christmas” it is the most popular song of all time. 
1993: An urban folk tale began to circulate about a Japanese department store displaying a life-sized Santa Claus being crucified on a cross. It never happened.
1997: Artist Robert Cenedella drew a painting of a crucified Santa Claus. It was displayed in the window of the New York’s Art Students League and received intense criticism from some religious groups. His drawing was a protest. He attempted to show how Santa Claus had replaced Jesus Christ as the most important personality at Christmas time. 7

References:

  1. Barbara G. Walker, “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.” Harper & Row, (1983) Pages 725 to 726.

  2. St. Nicholas of Myra,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, at: newadvent.org/cathen/11063b.htm 

  3. Father Frost,” at:bobandbabs.com/ 

  4. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” at:stormfax.com/virginia.htm 

  5. The Claus that Refreshes,” at: snopes.com/cokelore/santa.htm 

  6. Rudolph,” at: snopes.com/holidays/xmas/

  7. R Cendella Gallery – Theme: Commentary,” at rcenedellagallery.com

  8. St. Nicholas of Bari (Fourth Century),” Catholic Information Network, at: cin.org/nichbari.html

Thomas Nast (1840-1902)
America’s foremost political cartoonist and the creator of the
image of Santa Claus as we know him today.
In 1863, political cartoonist Thomas Nast began a series of annual drawings in Harper’s Weekly which were based on the descriptions found in the poem and Washington Irving’s work


Thomas Nast the son of a Bavarian army bandsman, was born in 1840 in Landau, in the RefinishThomas Nast Santa engraving 1882 Palatinate. Nast was brought to United States at a age of six in 1846; grew up in New York City. Before he learned English he was able to express himself with simple drawings on his slate. His artistic talent enabled him to enter an art school at an early age, but he had to leave at fifteen in order to support his family. After studying with Theodore Kaufmann and Alfred Fredericks, and in the school of the National Academy . Upon his first interview he was immediately hired as illustrator for Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated Newspaper (1855) at four dollars per week.

Thomas Nast engravingHe began his career with a cartoon attacking civic corruption. In 1860, at the age of 20, he covered a heavyweight championship in London for the New York Illustrated News. From there he joined the forces of Garibaldi in Italy as war correspondent. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, he returned to the United States, where he married his fiancée Sarah Edwards, a well-educated young lady who contributed in no small measure to her husband’s success. In the spring of 1862 Nast joined the staff of Harper’s Weekly as Civil War correspondent visiting the battlefields in the South and the Border States and sending back on-the-scene sketches. At the end of the war, Nast had become a nationally known figure as political cartoonist. From now on he took up nearly every national issue of political and social significance. Nast was a champion of the underprivileged and a protagonist of equal rights for all citizens – not only for the newly freed Negro slaves, but for other minority groups as well, such as the American Indians. He also took sides with the Chinese after their immigration had been restricted. He criticized the administration, which pretended to serve “the public good”, lampooned bigotry in the Catholic Church, dealt with economic and monetary issues and made Victoria Woodhull and her theories of “Free Love” the receptacle for his stinging irony.

Between 1861 and 1884, Thomas Nast and Harper’s Weekly were considered bulwarks of Republicanism and Nast’s greatest influence was obviously in politics. He was even called the “president maker”, since every presidential candidate whom he supported was elected. Nast popularized several political symbols: the Democratic donkey, the Republican elephant the Tammany tiger. He also gave us our present-day conception of Uncle Sam, John Bull and Columbia. The figure Nast drew, which was based on Pelznikel, the St. Nicholas of his German ancestors, is the famous Santa Claus, now known to everybody in the country. After the death of Nast’s friend and supporter Fletcher Harper, a younger generation of editors changed the policy of the magazine. It became less liberal and Nast’s career declined. Not willing to tolerate any censorship, Nast thought that after more than twenty-five years of work, it was time to travel, to rest and to devote more of his hours to his family. He put together a collection of Christmas drawings, which were published in 1890 under the title, Thomas Nast’s Christmas Drawings for the Human Race. Thomas Nast Santa engraving

When one of his cherished plans, publishing his own magazine, failed, he fell into debt. Therefore he accepted an appointment as Consul General to Ecuador, offered to him by one of his old admirers, Theodore Roosevelt. But the tropical heat and the unsanitary living conditions in Ecuador were too much for the sixty-two-year-old artist. On December 7, 1902, he succumbed to an epidemic of yellow fever – not without having paid back his debts and leaving some money for his family.

“Haddon Sundblom & Coca-Cola”
Born in 1899, Haddon Sundblom dominated the commercial art scene for decades. Often using himself as the model, Sundblom developed the image of jolly Saint Nick for Coca-Cola.


The Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly in 1862; Santa was shown as a small elf-like figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years and along the way changed the color of his coat from tan to the now traditional red.

The Coca-Cola Company began its Christmas advertising in the 1920s with shopping-related print ads in magazines like the Saturday Evening Post. The first Santa ads used a strict-looking Claus, in the vein of Thomas Nast.

Santa Claus made an appearance in our advertising again in 1930. Artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke®. The ad featured the world’s largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in the Saturday Evening Post on December 27, 1930.

Archie Lee, the agency advertising executive for The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus.

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Moore’s description of the man as “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly and human. For the next 35 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa — an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of children of all ages all over the world.

Beginning in 1928, more Coca-Cola was consumed from bottles than in soda fountains. More and more consumers were taking bottles of Coca-Cola home with them to keep cold in their ice boxes. As a sign of the times, the 1937 campaign saw Santa raiding the fridge.

The first appearance of a child in Sundblom’s Christmas creation occurred in 1938, when Santa is shown embracing a youngster in the family living room.

At the outbreak of World War II, franchise bottling operations were located in 44 countries. By the time the war was over, 64 operating plants had been established in war zones, and U.S. military personnel had consumed more than 5 billion bottles of Coca-Cola. Advertising began to reflect this global expansion, and the 1943 Santa said, “Wherever I go…”

What would the holiday season be without children? In 1950, Sundblom painted his next door neighbors in Tucson, Arizona, Lani & Sancy Nason. Yes, they were sisters, but Sundblom changed one to a boy to create more balanced scenes. Sundblom said, “I don’t know whether she liked being a boy or not. I never asked her.” The Nasons also appeared in 1952 and 1953 works.

In 1951, we see Santa making his list and checking it twice. However, the ads did not acknowledge that bad kids existed. This painting only shows the good boys and girls. It is clear from this year’s art that Sundblom is using his own likeness as a model.

Controversy surrounded the 1954 Santa Claus. As one of the most loved campaigns, the Coca-Cola Santa had many fans. Probably because he was using himself as a model and looking in a mirror, Sundblom painted Santa’s large belt worn backwards. The ads elicited thousands of letters from consumers telling the company about the mistake.

The Santa artwork for 1956 was a cleaned-up version of the 1953 painting; Santa’s work bench and other helpers were removed.

A variety of Santa images were employed for the 1957 holiday season. In one, Santa was poised to blast off to help sell more Coca-Cola. With the subjects of missiles and interplanetary travel on consumers’ minds, Santa traded in his sleigh and reindeer for a rocket ship.

The Santa Claus dolls were an important addition to the 1957 campaign. The dolls were first distributed as promotional items for bottlers by an independent advertising supply house. Newer models of the dolls have been produced over the years.

In 1959, Santa helps himself to some Coca-Cola, but gets caught in the act. This year marked a departure for Sundblom. Most of the Santa art of the past featured Santa as the main subject. But from this year onward, Santa plays an important part of the Christmas scene, but elves, children, pets and toys also have significant roles.

1964 was the last year that an original Sundblom was used in the advertising for Coca-Cola. The paintings for 1965 and 1966 were actually created in 1964 and served as the basis of artwork in 1965 and 1966.

While Sundblom did not create new Santa art for us after 1964, the Coca-Cola Santa had a powerful, enduring quality that continued to inspire future Santas forCoca-Cola. The original paintings by Haddon Sundblom are some of the most prized pieces in the art collection of our Archives Department. Many can be seen on display at World of Coca-Cola Atlanta or touring the world during the holiday season.

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Night Before Christmas
(A Visit From St. Nicholas)
by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.A visit from St Nick
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL,
AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT.” 

 

References:

  1. Barbara G. Walker, “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.” Harper & Row, (1983) Pages 725 to 726.

  2. St. Nicholas of Myra,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, at: newadvent.org/cathen/11063b.htm 

  3. Father Frost,” at:bobandbabs.com/ 

  4. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” at:stormfax.com/virginia.htm 

  5. The Claus that Refreshes,” at: snopes.com/cokelore/santa.htm 

  6. Rudolph,” at: snopes.com/holidays/xmas/

  7. R Cendella Gallery – Theme: Commentary,” at rcenedellagallery.com

  8. St. Nicholas of Bari (Fourth Century),” Catholic Information Network, at: cin.org/nichbari.html

Yes, Virginia.  There is a Santa Claus-
This classic letter, and response, answers the age-old question.
A must read for everyone.

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of “The Sun”:

Dear Editor,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years form now he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. 

Francis P Church

The Christmas issue of NOAA's Weather Bureau T...

The Christmas issue of NOAA’s Weather Bureau Topics with “Santa Claus” streaking across a weather radar screen, 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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