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The Man Who Invented Santa Claus…

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Thomas Nast (1840-1902) is credited as being the “man who created our current image of Santa Claus.”

The illustration appeared in the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly and showed Santa Claus handing out gifts to a Union Army camp. He is chubby, pink cheeks, long white beard, wearing a fur-trimmed hat and suit with Stars and Stripes. He is sitting on his sleigh that is being pulled by reindeers.  In the background is a sign that reads “Welcome Santa Claus” and shows him handing out gifts to children and soldiers. 

Christmas became a Union holiday and Santa a Union local deity-a positive spirit of Northern plenty and domesticity, to set alongside and against the Southern myth of chivalry and tradition…

Thomas Nast is considered the “father of American cartooning and remains the greatest American image-maker…he invented the Democratic Donkey, the Republican Elephant and the American Boss (capitalist with a bag of money for a brain).Above all, he was the man who invented Santa Claus, taking a minor Central European folk saint and turning him into the personification of American Materialism, coming down the chimney and shaking with joy.”

“Nast’s fat little man in red, with a broad white beard, was benevolent but no angel…Nast’s most famous drawing of Santa was a double-page Christmas picture published in "December 29, 1866 that clinched and pulled together the Santa iconography…Yet, for all the entrepreneurial edge, Nast’s Santa is overseeing and all smiling: “With malice toward none.” Nast gave the American Christmas its patron saint and its dominant tone…”

Taken from the New Yorker magazine (December 15, 1997, pg.84-102), “The Man who invented Santa Claus”, by Adam Gopnik. Happy Holidays!!  

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