Santa Claus has long been a cult idol of mine. I think we can all really agree that the image of Santa Claus, perhaps even his entire existence, has been a long lurid story that ultimately simplifies down to mass manipulation.
Let me get one thing perfectly clear before I go on. I love the image of Santa. being an artist I love to draw him in all his various incarnations. Also as an artist It has always intrigued me why he looks like he does. This leads me to the topic of today which is the origins of Santa Claus.
The “Jolly One” can really be traced back to the christian icon Nicholas of Myraa Turkish Bishop, who was given sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church in part because of his tireless efforts on behalf of the poor and his well known habit of bestowing gifts to children and encouraging others to give as well. St. Nicholas is often portrayed wearing bishops robes which are many times black or red with white or gold fur trim. He was also well known for his long flowing white beard.
Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a jolly well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, and was reflected as the “Ghost of Christmas Present”, in Charles Dickens Festive classic A Christmas Carol, a great genial man in a green coat lined with fur who takes Scrooge through the bustling streets of London on the current Christmas morning, sprinkling the essence of Christmas onto the happy populace. Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and, this British character Father Christmas from pure folklore merged at some point to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus.
In fact, we in the west, owe more to our interpretation of Santa Claus to a trio of painters than even these old myths and legends.
J. C. Leyendecker, Haddon Sundblom, and Norman Rockwell were all illustrators and painters associated with Santa. While you know Sundbloms work with Coca-Cola illustrating the rotund and venerably happy old fellow, you may not know that Leyendecker and a certain Christmas poem are sighted as Sundblom’s inspiration for the garb and colors used in his paintings. In fact, Leyendecker was the chief illustrator at the Saturday Evening post that guided and molded and influenced another very famous illustrator of Santa, Norman Rockwell.
These three fellows combined to barrage our senses with images of Santa the way we have come to know him today. You can clearly see what I mean about mass manipulation since we rode the lighting from a real person who was a supposed saint, to a completely fictional sinterklaas / father Christmas all the way to selling magazines and Coke. So , now you know where Santa came from. Hope you put that knowledge to good use!