A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Over the years, there has been a ton of misinformation, disinformation and out-and-out lies told about Santa Claus. Personally, I’m tired of it. It’s time to set the record straight. And I’m just the boy that can do it.
First, the myth. In almost every Christmas book ever written, the story of Santa Claus starts out in some godforsaken town in Turkey. Apparently, there was a guy there named Nicholas. He was a priest or something, and he was so generous the Church made him a saint. Fine! There are a few scraps of evidence to suggest this might be true. However, historians have never be able to agree on the where, when, what, why or even the who of this little legend. In fact, there is no definitive evidence whatsoever that this (or any other) Nicholas has any historical connection to Santa Claus. Unfortunately, in place of hard evidence, anthropologists and social historians have taken to theorizing that our Santa Claus grew out of this Nicholas story. They maintain that this local folk hero somehow not only managed to survive the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the Elizabethans, the Puritans, the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, but actually thrived and spread throughout Europe and eventually the world. What a crock!
Now the truth. The real story of Santa Claus — based on the facts. Santa Claus has been around forever. He’s known by a number of different names — Weihnachtsmann, Father Christmas, Pere Noel etc. etc. — but it’s all the same guy. He lives at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus, a ton of elves and the reindeer. He has a big red book with every child’s name in it, and he keeps meticulous track of which ones are naughty and which ones are nice. All year long, the elves make toys in a gigantic workshop. Then, once a year, Santa loads up his sleigh, hitches up the reindeer (who can fly – Duh!) and goes around the world, delivering toys to good girls and boys.
How do I know this? Documented evidence! Santa Claus has actually been seen – a number of times. Obviously, there are a bunch of contemporary photographs available, but most of them have not been authenticated. However, if we look at a few historical accounts from some very well-respected individuals, we can get at the truth – based on factual information.
In 1823, Clement Moore, a professor at Columbia College, woke up on Christmas Eve and witnessed Santa Claus delivering toys to his house. He wrote a poem about his experience, called ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, which was published in the Sentinel newspaper in Troy, New York. In that poem, Moore describes Santa quite accurately. He also describes the reindeer (miraculously remembering Santa’s names for them) and their ability to fly. There is some controversy over Moore’s account, however, because he describes the scene as “a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer” and goes on to call Santa himself “a right jolly old elf.” Since we know (from corroborating evidence) that Santa Claus is actually quite a large gentleman, we can only conclude that Clement either didn’t have his glasses on or suffered from an undiagnosed eye ailment.
Santa Claus was next seen by Thomas Nast, sometime in the 1860s. Nast was a cartoonist and social commentator who gave us, among other things, Uncle Sam, the symbols of both the Republican and Democratic political parties and the term “nasty.” Obviously, a witness to history like Nast would not let his encounter with Santa Claus go unrecorded. In the January 3rd, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, Nast drew an illustration of Santa Claus meeting Union troops and passing out gifts during the Civil War. We know this portrayal to be accurate because Santa Claus appears exactly as Clement Moore described him! Clearly, these two depictions are of the same person. Nast seems to have developed a long-term relationship with Santa Claus, because, twenty years later, he drew him again in what looks like a seated portrait.
The next documented sighting of Santa Claus occurred sometime in the late 1920s. Haddan Sundblom, an advertising artist, clearly met Santa on several occasions and even convinced him to pose for another portrait. In 1931, Sundblom painted a picture of Santa for an advertisement for the Coca Cola™ Company. It appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. And once again, Santa Claus is identical to both previous depictions. Coincidence? I think not! In fact, Sundblom’s image was so universally recognized as Santa Claus that there has never been one suggestion, by schoolboy or scholar, that this is not the real Santa Claus – not one – in the entire world. If I spoke Latin, I’d say QED!
These are three examples that document the truth about Santa Claus. But there is one more piece of irrefutable evidence that cannot be denied by even the most cynical among us. It’s Santa Claus’ home address.
So, you don’t have to trust me or the documented facts I have presented. All you have to do is write to Santa Claus yourself, and I guarantee you he’ll answer.