Empty Stocking – 12 days of xmas #7

This is actually not what I intended to write originally. I had another more enthusiastic post planned. Yet, it seems somehow inappropriate now. Surprisingly (at least to me) this Christmas is going down as one of my most memorable Christmases. But for reasons I truly didn’t anticipate.

I’ve always loved Christmas, even when I was hating it. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is because there is a part of me that simply refuses to grow up. A part of me that wants to believe in the impossibility of dreams coming true, happy endings and the basic good-heartedness of people in general.

And in recent years I’ve heard a lot (and there are even whole series of articles dedicated to this theme these days) about how Christmas isn’t what it used to be. There is the commercialism, the basic cynical outlook of society today, the stress, the unusually high expectations that inevitably sets people up to fall. This and much more is what I hear is wrong with Christmas today. But if I reach back into my memories I can easily recall my mother making the same claims when I was a child. And if I reach further back than that, by watching old movies, those claims appear too. To quote a character in the movie Miracle of 34th Street – “There are a lot of isms in the world, but the worst one is commercialism.” Indeed, that story was all about how society had lost the magic and true meaning of Christmas and how if you ‘just believe’ you can recapture that feeling.

This year has been a very tough one for me. For many reasons – not the least of which is that the company I work for came very close to shutting its doors this past week. Somehow, we have managed to avoid that castastrophe, at least for now. Although, there is no promise that it won’t rear its ugly head again next week or the week after that. Despite that (and many other things), I was completely and totally unwilling to let go of my love of Christmas. I was sure, very sure that I could still spread the magic and enthusiasm. Cheer friends and family alike.

And try I did and have. To no avail, I’m afraid. It seems everywhere I go there is a pervading sadness. Whether it be dinner with friends, shopping, the blogosphere – it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s like no one really wants to be cheered. And it’s not the Grinch angry kind of thing – even that (in comparison) is not so bad. It’s worse than that – maybe an indifference??? I don’t know.

All I know is that I’m tired of swimming against the tide. I’m tired of fighting people to be happy for just a few days. I guess I’m just plain tired. Perhaps I’ve finally grown up and realized there really is no magic. Or I just simply don’t have enough magic powder to go around.

My plans are made. The gifts are bought. Heck I’m even making a turkey dinner for Roomie, lest he eat hot dogs and watch cowboy movies all day. But my heart – it’s just not in it any more. I’m just not feeling it in the air, I’m just not seeing it in people’s faces or hearing it in their voices. And it’s kind of lonely here at the party by myself.

So this Christmas is my empty stocking. Not because there are no gifts there – because there are and there will be. Not because there won’t be good food and some laughs and goofy pictures to hide from public view. Not because I’m broke or I’m driving an old car that has a new weird sound almost every day. Not because there won’t be snow on Christmas Eve. Not because – in a phrase – life is a bitch and then you die. But because the sparkle that’s behind filling that stocking just ain’t there this year. Maybe next year it will be back. I sure hope so.

WC

Julia Child’s Turkey Christmas – 12 days of xmas #6

New house, new man (with two sons…why do they come in two’s?) and yet another memorable Christmas. Still cooking. In this case, cooking up a veritible storm. It started out pretty simple me, Tom and the boys with a few friends…but then I started getting these phone calls. There was a bevy of Christmas orphans that year with nowhere to go and could they come to my house? Sure, the more the merrier!

As each day inched nearer to Christmas, more phone calls, more unexpected guests to feed. I’d never made a really big turkey but this was the year to do it. The house was small so there was no way we were all going to sit down, so a buffet it was.

It’s a rather odd and surreal experience (even to a Christmas nut like me) to have a houseful of guests for Christmas dinner when you’ve never met half of them. Sort of like stumbling into a big frat party. But I loving to cook and have guests the way I do decided to just roll with it.

I got up early (can you say 5 am?) and Tom just had to get this shot of me in search of my first cup of coffee. Oh how I love to have my picture taken in my jammies with no makeup and a dumb expression on my face.

But I digress.

So, out came the 30lb turkey to sit on the counter while I drank coffee and made the stuffing. Now I’m a kind of organic cook – I generally abhor recipes and I honestly can’t follow one completely as I always add things or change things. So instead of taking the easy way out and following Mrs. Cubbitson’s recipe that was quite conveniently on the back of the box, I set to chopping up apples, nuts and onions, sauteed all that in some butter and threw in a few handful of raisens – I happened to have some cranberries too so in they went. Once the vat of dressing was made and the turkey stuffed to the gills and the remaining dressing in a sheet pan, we set to making the basting sauce. Butter, chicken broth, orange juice and white wine, a little sugar for good measure and we were ready to roll. Into the oven it went.

The next hour was spent peeling potatoes because of course home made mashed potatoes were a must and I had a lot of guests and they were going to want those darn potatoes. Ooops, one of the kids just shot a toy soldier into the potato pot. No harm done, the soldier was barely injured. On the back burner with those. Next sweet potatoes, peeling, dicing, glazing with butter, cinnamon, pineapple juice and brown sugar. My gawd how glad was I that I made the pumpkin pies the night before? Very, I must say.

As an afterthought, I grabbed a couple of bags of frozen peas since no one really likes vegetables with their Christmas dinner, do they? Unheard of, really , absolutely scandalous!

And between the basting and trying to find enough dishes and the the parade of guests and little gift giving, before I knew it, it was time to pull it all out of the oven. Of course by that time I was ready for a nap but i had an army to feed and they were getting restless with Ruffles and beer being their only appetisers (I know, shame on me – but I just couldn’t clone myself to make nibblies).

The turkey needed to rest before we could carve him up – so I put on my best Julia Childs impression and entertained the guests while extolling the many virtues of the giant perfectly browned bird.

Then came the rue for the gravy and separating the fat from the drippings – oh my where was that little bit of coffee I saved for the gravy? Is that bowl big enough for the potatoes? Why on earth don’t I have an electric mixer? Do you know how hard it is to mash and whip 10 pounds of mashed potatoes? My biceps were quite impressive that day. At least Tom opened the cranberry sauce and carved the turkey.

Finally we ate and ate and then we ate some more. We played Trivial Pursuit, got drunk and finished the leftovers. I think I finally had to kick everyone out around midnight. Since my orphans had cleaned up after me when dinner was over, I had a clean kitchen and just enough to share a turkey sandwich with Tom before we crawled into bed for a long winter’s nap. Of course I swore I’d never do that again. And yet I did, the next year and the next year and the year after that. 😉

WC

Christmas on the Boulevard – 12 days of xmas #5

 

Cooking is something I love and coincidentally one of the things I do best. For that reason (and many others) when time and space allow I can usually be counted on to cook up a storm on Christmas. This particular year though I opted out.

It was my first Christmas after Mike and I broke up and something about doing the big dinner just didn’t sit right with me. Instead I put together a co-op Christmas Brunch. Which really turned out to be great. I made the eggs, bacon, sausage and fresh-squeezed juice, Maxine brought breads and muffins, Libby brought fruit, somebody brought deserts, and yet another brought cheeses and other nibblies. We all lazed around in my tiny livingroom, after feeding heavily from the buffet I set up in the kitchen. It was a wonderful 80 degrees outside and it was more like a pool party than Christmas.

One by one my guests bid their goodbyes, having dinner plans elsewhere and I made sure that each took away some of the leftovers, lest they pass my lips and end up on my thighs. A brilliant plan I thought….at the time.

Libby, my somewhat eccentric friend had no plans so she stayed and we yakked and laughed and smoked for hours. We were having such a good time in our chat we decided to keep it going and thought what fun it would be to just go out for Christmas dinner. Nothing fancy mind you, especially since Libby was attired in her usual denim overalls and sneakers, but surely Denny’s would be open or someplace like that.

So, we decided to walk down to the boulevard. That’s Hollywood speak for Hollywood Boulevard. You know that famous little strip of land that you hear about and read about out there in the real world? Where every step you take lands you on the star and name of somebody famous. Where drag queens, hookers, tourists, wannabes and regular folk alike stroll and take in the sights.

A good plan, right? I mean how could something go wrong? Who woulda thunk that not one shop, store or restaurant would be open? Ah…us! Yep, that’s right. We walked and looked and walked and looked and walked some more. But, ah…no….didn’t we realize it was Christmas day? Didn’t we have family or friends who could feed us? I mean…didn’t we?

Of course we weren’t having any of it. We knew if we just kept walking that we were sure to find someplace. Just as we reached Grelman’s Chinese Theatre (you know the one with all the handprints and footprints of movie stars?) we spotted a lovely pink neon sign that said ‘open.’

“See,” Libby crowed, “I knew we’d find someplace.”

So we crossed the street and pulled open the door to Frank’s Diner. (Yep, that is really what it was called.)

Oh good, I thought – some good greasy spoon Christmas dinner was going to hit the spot.

The waitress who was a mere 150 years old shuffled over to us as we sat at the counter. “What’ll ya have?”

“Turkey dinner, of course,” we said.

She screwed up her face in a sour puss. “We don’t got no turkey dinner.”

“Really?” our eyes were wide and hearts very sad.

“What’ll ya have?” she asked again completely unphased by our charms.

“Menu?” Libby chirped.

Two xeroxed sheets of paper were plunked down in front of us. “Coffee?”

‘Ah, sure.”

We studied the menu and looked for anything that could possibly approximate Christmas dinner. We both decided on the hot turkey sandwich. It was almost like Christmas and we’d have pumpkin pie for desert. We ordered.

The coffee came and our spoons stood straight up in it. We went through two cream pictures in an effort to make it drinkable but the color never really changed from the muddy brown hue it came with.

At last the hot turkey samiches arrived and our eyes sparkled until Myra (we named all old waitress Myra) slapped them down in front of us. Okay, ready? Wonder bread with turkey loaf, instant mashed potatoes and BROWN gravy all over everything – even the peas and carrots. To say it was fucking awful is to pay it too high a compliment. But we were starved so down it went. And we laughed like a couple of giddy cokeheads. For some reason it was hilarious to us that this was our Christmas dinner.

When finally we gave up on the brown gooey mess we asked for pumpkin pie. “We’re out,” she said and gave us our check.

Of course they were.

We paid our check and walked arm in arm back down the boulevard toward home. On the way back we spotted a Falaphel stand and ordered a couple. Hey, at least it was edible and the big tanker of diet coke helped it go down nice and easy.

By the time we got back to my place it was late and Libby decided to go home. I plopped down on the couch and turned on the tv – what luck – White Christmas had just started and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

WC

Why Yes, It Is a Wonderful Life – 12 days of xmas #3

 

I moved to California when I was 20. It was a big dream come true for me as I’d always wanted to live in the land of summer for as long as I could remember. Though when I actually got to the land of milk and honey I experienced some serious culture shock. Having grown up in the midwest I was a bit too much on the wholesome side to have taken easily to some of the things I saw in L.A.

Long story short, after a couple of years I pined for home and family and was terribly lonely. In a moment of insanity I agreed to come home at my mom’s behest. To my utter amazement, my view had changed without my noticing. Almost as soon as I got home my world became so small.

It was winter and the landscape I found depressing. Nothing had changed around the old neighborhood, as though it had frozen in time since I’d last seen it. Don’t get me wrong it was wonderful to see my family and old friends but I still felt like piece out of place. Like a new toy in a box of old favorites. People kept mentioning my California accent and how different I was. It was really quite surreal.

I think I lasted about 6 weeks before I was utterly miserable and wanted to go back to California. This did not go over well with Mom who really wanted me to stay for Christmas at least. I know I should have, I know that as a good daughter I should have let her have her way but there was something inside of me that just wouldn’t let me. I had to go back.

So, a couple of weeks before Christmas Mom and Dad took me to the airport so I could return to the land of summer and apparently my new ‘home’ in the universe. I remember Mom was so upset with me she could hardly speak to me and we all felt kind of sad. I kept telling my dad I was sorry but he just smiled and gave me a hug and said: “It’s okay Babe, you have to follow your dreams. You don’t have nothing without them.” (What a guy, eh?)

So back I went and Christmas was bleak to say the least. I’d given up my apartment and belongings, I literall had nothing but a few clothes and a lot of hope. A friend had offered to let me stay in his extra bedroom for a few weeks until I got re-settled. But he had plans for the holidays and so I was really left on my own.

It was pretty bleak. I think I had a bologna sandwich on Christmas Eve and watched old movies on tv by myself for the night. I was sad and depressed and so conflicted wondering if I’d made a mistake in coming back. I scolded myself for being so indecisive and loopy. That I could at that moment been with family, eating great food and unwrapping presents.

And then it was midnight and officially Christmas. I was alone in front of the tv and couldn’t sleep. A movie came on called “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’d never seen it and since I wasn’t about to sleep, I decided I might as well watch it.

I know this may sound really stupid and silly but really that movie changed my life. It made me realize that everyone does indeed touch the lives of so many others and that we all have an important and special place in the world. And that Christmas isn’t always about getting your wishes but more about celebrating your life, no matter what it is and where it is. That life offers us choice and second chances continually, if only we keep our eyes and our hearts open.

And though there were no fancy parties, presents or even company for me that year – it was indeed a wonderful Christmas. Because I realized I had a wonderful life too.

WC

A Christmas Surprise – 12 days of xmas #2

 

In a different house a few years later, when I was about 6 my brother Alan and my sister Kathy and I would wake even before the first light on Christmas morning. Apparently it was a habit by then because our parents were used to it and gave up trying to keep us in bed. But this particular Christmas when we got up and started ripping open packages and squealing they called down for us to take it to the basement. Not as bad as it sounds, as the basement was refinished and was a fun place to be.

So, like little soldiers, we grabbed our loot and made our way down to the basement. We argued and played and laughed. But then we heard a sound. It seemed to be coming from the laundry room. It sounded like a baby or something. So we, en masse moved toward the laundry room a little afraid and a little excited. It was dark and none of us were tall enough to reach the light switch so we stood like a little frozen statues and listened.

Why yes indeed, there was a little crying going on and it came from a box in the corner. We looked at each other and squealed like little baby pigs because we all KNEW what that sound was. We seemed to transport to the box across the room and lifted the flap. A puppy! A beautiful gray and black, little German Shepard puppy!

We carried the box to the rec room and oohed and ahed. I’m not sure but I think I managed to get her into my arms before the other kids could even think of it. Her fur was like velvet and she licked my nose. There isn’t anything in the world that a kid loves more than to have a puppy lick their face. She had that wonderful, sweet puppy smell and the tiniest little bark which would send us into a choir of giggles.

Somehow, Dad had managed to sneak down to the basement without our seeing or hearing him. And we might never have noticed him it if weren’t for all those blaring lights off his home movie camera – do you remember those? The kind that could now classify as headlights for a compact car?

We danced and mugged for the camera. Put her down on the floor and got her to chase after us and bark her adorable bark, wag her little tail. I loved this puppy like I never loved anything before. I wanted her to be all mine but I knew she was ours. (I was so bossy even as a little kid – duh!)

“What’s her name, Daddy?” I asked.

“Queeny,” he said without hesitation.

I grinned from ear to ear because I remembered. Our first dog was named Queenie and it seemed so fitting that our new puppy would continue to carry the mantle of that wonderful name.

Of course, Queenie promptly peed and pooped on the tile floor and we had our first Christmas joy of cleaning up after her. Eeeeooooowww, we all said, our noses wrinkling in horror. But who could mind really when you had the best Christmas present ever?

I remember later in the day my dad taking Queenie out in the backyard, immediately beginning the house training – and watching the tiny little fuzzball trot along behind my dad, the snow practically swallowing her up so that all you saw was a bobbing head and waggy tail.

And my heart swelled up because I knew it was Dad who had campaigned for the dog in our behalf – Mom wasn’t so hot on pets at the time, the mess, the work, the feeding, etc. And I knew he probably had to campaign hard and long for her to say yes. I just hope that she felt it was worth it after seeing the joy in her children’s faces and hearts. I know I sure thought so.

WC

Trains and First Christmas – 12 days of xmas #1

 

The first Christmas I really remember was when I was about 3 years old (maybe even 2). I have no real recollection of what I got – probably dolls or stuffed animals or something girlie. But oh how I remember that my brother Alan got a geniune Lionel train set. It mesmerized me.

Dad had set it up under the tree and it just went around and around and around, all day long. I lusted after those trains. I wanted those trains. I wanted to sit on the floor and play with the boys and get my chubby little hands on those controls. This may be the first signs of my growing up to be an adventurous free spirit or a control freak. (Take your pick).

Whenever no one was looking, I’d sidle over to the tree. Inch by inch I’d creep, wanting, lusting. Never quite making it to the tree much less the controls. Dad would bark out – “Stay away from that! That’s for your brothers. It’s a boy’s toy!”

I’d make a pouty face and cross my arms over my chest and sulk.

Mom would try to offer me toys or candy but I wasn’t interested.

My cousin Tommy taunted me. “It’s not for girls. It’s not for girls. It’s not for girls! Nanananananana!”  If I’d have been bigger he would have experienced some slap down. No kidding.

So, I sat on the stairs and watched the boys play with the train forever and ever and ever. Never once getting the chance to touch the controls. Wishing I could be a boy for just one day so I could run that darn train. I think I actually fell asleep on the stairs watching that train. At least that’s how my memory remembers it.

For many years after that the train set became a tradition for many Christmases – somehow it went from a gift to an extension of our Christmas decorations. And I don’t specifically recall when, but at some point it went to the trainyard in the sky – because suddenly it just wasn’t there.

It was probably around the time we stopped having live Christmas trees because Mom started lusting after fake ones in hues of pink and turquoise.

And though there have been oh so many Christmases since then, I never forgot the gleaming, shiney, coolest of cool trains roaring along its track under my first Christmas tree.

WC

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I’ve always loved the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas and I thought it would be fun to use it as a theme for the 2nd half of my month of Christmas posts. We all have fond and not so fond Christmas memories and sometimes they make good stories (even the miserable ones), especially if you’re drinking really good and heavily spiked eggnog.

But my twelve days of Christmas aren’t about pear trees, milking maids or golden rings – mine are my twelve most memorable Christmases. Some are sweet, some a little sad and some are pretty funny.

Many of my memories are snatches of this or that. Like my sister’s habit of opening my presents after she got bored with hers and then running into my room to tell me what I got. Of course I made her go back and rewrap them but for sure, the surprise was gone once I saw the packages.

Or my mother’s habit of getting into a snit with my dad just as we were sitting down to Christmas dinner.

Or the fact that for years Mom hid the presents in the cubby hole in her room and we would check it out daily for weeks before Christmas. The only mystery was who was getting what. You’d think she would have chosen a different hiding place once in a while.

Or the forced photos standing before the tree showing off your presents.

The smell of turkey and the taste of perfect gravy oozing on home made mashed potatoes, my aunt’s Christmas aspic made of lime jello, walnuts, carrots and raisens oh and her pumpkin bread.

Falling asleep at the window trying to stay awake to see if there really was a Santa Claus. And the joy I felt when it snowed on Christmas Eve because I knew that meant that it was really going to be a perfect White Christmas.

Christmas trees and Christmas lights. School Christmas concerts – countless favorite Christmas songs and movies. These are all the things that I think of when I think of Christmas.

So prepare yourselves folks, I’m walking down memory lane for the next few days and I hope you don’t mind strolling along with me.

WC

A Christmas Wish

You know I was talking to a very dear friend on the phone Friday night and found myself so joyful in just our simple exchange of what was going on in our lives. The good, the bad, the exciting, the mundane – honestly the content didn’t matter one twig. All that mattered was that I was talking with someone to whom I feel truly connected. And I realized that that is how I feel about all of my friends. A deep and abiding kindredness of spirit. Which is why I always feel so wonderful to be in their company. Even when we are being miserable together (if that makes any sense?).

And I said to him, ‘you know my biggest wish is to someday have all my friends in the same place and spend Christmas together.’ Just saying it out loud brought it that much more to life for me. It was as though I was looking into the future and seeing every friend I have in the world, all in one place having the time of their lives. I could hear the music, smell and taste the food, feel the warmth of the fire and the vibration of the laughter.

I have so many friends in so many parts of the world – many of whom I see rarely and many whom I haven’t been in the same room with for years. The idea of throwing a big lasso over all of you and drawing you into the same place brings such joy and warmth into my heart it almost makes me cry. Especially those whom I’ve never actually met in the flesh, the real world. Thanks to technology I’ve found some real soul mates and kindred spirits and it is a profound goal of mine to meet each and every one. And so I shall.

All things happen for a reason I think. If I hadn’t done this, or worked there or got a computer or an internet connection there are so many wonderful people I’d never have come to know and love. That I was meant to know and love.

I am truly blessed.

So don’t be too surprised if one Christmas in the not too distant future an invitation arrives, or a limo pulls up to whisk you away to my big Christmas gathering. I’ve found that if I wish hard enough and long enough my wishes do come true.

Much love to you all.

WC

Ha, ha – ho, ho…funnies for you

Here’s a little assortment of little Christmas funnies…

 

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

WC

Myths, Links and Stuff

Okay, so here are some interesting things:

There’s a pretty popular myth that Santa’s style of clothing and the colors or said clothing have to do with coca cola. According to Snopes it’s not true. Read below:

Claim: The modern image of Santa Claus — a jolly figure in a red-and-white suit — was created by Coca-Cola.

Status: False.

Example: [Twitchell, 2000]

The jolly old St. Nick that we know from countless images did not come from folklore, nor did he originate in the imaginations of Moore and Nast. He comes from the yearly advertisements of the Coca-Cola Company. He wears the corporate colors — the famous red and white — for a reason: he is working out of Atlanta, not out of the North Pole.

Origins: Santa

Claus is perhaps the most remarkable of all the figures associated with Christmas. To us, Santa has always been an essential part of the Christmas celebration, but the modern image of Santa didn’t develop until well into the 19th century. Moreover, he didn’t spring to life fully-formed as a literary creation or a commercial invention (as did his famous reindeer, Rudolph). Santa Claus was an evolutionary creation, brought about by the fusion of two religious personages (St. Nicholas and Christkindlein, the Christ child) to become a fixed image which is now the paramount symbol of the secular Christmas celebration.

In 1804, the New York Historical Society was founded with Nicholas as its patron saint, its members reviving the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas as a gift-bringer. In 1809, Washington Irving published his satirical A History of New York, by one “Diedrich Knickerbocker,” a work that poked fun at New York’s Dutch past (St. Nicholas included). When Irving became a member of the Society the following year, the annual St. Nicholas Day dinner festivities included a woodcut of the traditional Nicholas figure (tall, with long robes) accompanied by a Dutch rhyme about “Sancte Claus” (in Dutch, “Sinterklaas”). Irving revised his History of New York in 1812, adding details about Nicholas’ “riding over the tops of the trees, in that selfsame waggon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children.” In 1821, a New York printer named William Gilley issued a poem about a “Santeclaus” who dressed all in fur and drove a sleigh pulled by one reindeer. Gilley’s “Sante,” however, was very short.

On Christmas Eve of 1822, another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, wrote down and read to his children a series of verses; his poem was published a year later as “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” (more commonly known today by its opening line, “‘Twas the night before Christmas . . .”). Moore gave St. Nick eight reindeer (and named them all), and he devised the now-familiar entrance by chimney. Moore’s Nicholas was still a small figure, however — the poem describes a “miniature sleigh” with a “little old driver.”

Meanwhile, in parts of Europe such as Germany, Nicholas the gift-giver had been superseded by a representation of the infant Jesus (the Christ child, or “Christkindlein”). The Christkindlein accompanied Nicholas-like figures with other names (such as “Père Noël” in France), or he travelled with a dwarf-like helper (known in some places as “Pelznickel,” or Nicholas with furs). Belsnickle (as Pelznickel was known in the German-American dialect of Pennsylvania) was represented by adults who dressed in furry disguises (including false whiskers), visited while children were still awake, and put on a scary performance. Gifts found by children the next morning were credited to Christkindlein, who had come while everyone was asleep. Over time, the non-visible Christkindlein (whose name mutated into “Kriss Kringle”) was overshadowed by the visible Belsnickle, and both of them became confused with St. Nicholas and the emerging figure of Santa Claus.

The modern Santa Claus derived from these two images: St. Nicholas the elf-like gift bringer described by Moore, and a friendlier “Kriss Kringle” amalgam of the Christkindlein and Pelznickel figures. The man-sized version of Santa became the dominant image around 1841, when a Philadelphia merchant named J.W. Parkinson hired a man to dress in “Criscringle” clothing and climb the chimney outside his shop.

In 1863, a caricaturist for Harper’s Weekly named Thomas Nast began developing his own image of Santa. Nast gave his figure a “flowing set of whiskers” and dressed him “all in fur, from his head to his foot.” Nast’s 1866 montage entitled “Santa Claus and His Works” established Santa as a maker of toys; an 1869 book of the same name collected new Nast drawings with a poem by George P. Webster that identified the North Pole as Santa’s home. Although Nast never settled on one size for his Santa figures (they ranged from elf-like to man-sized), his 1881 “Merry Old Santa Claus” drawing is quite close to the modern-day image.

The Santa Claus figure, although not yet standardized, was ubiquitous by the late 19th century. Santa was portrayed as both large and small; he was usually round but sometimes of normal or slight build; and he dressed in furs (like Belsnickle) or cloth suits of red, blue, green, or purple. A Boston printer named Louis Prang introduced the English custom of Christmas cards to America, and in 1885 he issued a card featuring a red-suited Santa. The chubby Santa with a red suit (like an “overweight superhero”) began to replace the fur-dressed Belsnickle image and the multicolored Santas.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the burgeoning Coca-Cola company was still looking for ways to increase sales of their product during winter, then a slow time of year for the soft drink market. They turned to a talented commercial illustrator named Haddon Sundblom, who created a series of memorable drawings that associated the figure of a larger than life, red-and-white garbed Santa Claus with Coca-Cola. Coke’s annual advertisements — featuring Sundblom-drawn Santas holding bottles of Coca-Cola, drinking Coca-Cola, receiving Coca-Cola as gifts, and especially enjoying Coca-Cola — became a perennial Christmastime feature which helped spur Coca-Cola sales throughout the winter (and produced the bonus effect of appealing quite strongly to children, an important segment of the soft drink market). The success of this advertising campaign has helped fuel the legend that Coca-Cola actually invented the image of the modern Santa Claus, decking him out in a red-and-white suit to promote the company colors — or that at the very least, Coca-Cola chose to promote the red-and-white version of Santa Claus over a variety of competing Santa figures in order to establish it as the accepted image of Santa Claus.

This legend is not true. Although some versions of the Santa Claus figure still had him attired in various colors of outfits past the beginning of the 20th century, the jolly, ruddy, sack-carrying Santa with a red suit and flowing white whiskers had become the standard image of Santa Claus by the 1920s, several years before Sundlom drew his first Santa illustration for Coca-Cola. As The New York Times reported on 27 November 1927:

A standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers. The pack full of toys, ruddy cheeks and nose, bushy eyebrows and a jolly, paunchy effect are also inevitable parts of the requisite make-up.

It’s simply mind-boggling that at the beginning the 21st century, historians are still egregiously perpetuating inaccurate information like the following:

So complete was the colonization of Christmas that Coke’s Santa had elbowed aside all comers by the 1940s. He was the Santa of the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street just as he is the Santa of the recent film The Santa Clause. He is the Santa on Hallmark cards, he is the Santa riding the Norelco shaver each Christmas season, he is the department-store Santa, and he is even the Salvation Army Santa!1

As we just pointed out above, the modern Santa had “elbowed aside all comers” long before the 1940s, and well before Coca-Cola co-opted him as their wintertime advertising symbol. And we’re at a loss to understand how anyone could have recognized the Santa of Miracle on 34th Street, a BLACK-AND-WHITE film, as the red-and-white Coca-Cola Santa.

All this isn’t to say that Coca-Cola didn’t have anything to do with cementing that image of Santa Claus in the public consciousness. The Santa image may have been standardized before Coca-Cola adopted it for their advertisements, but Coca-Cola had a great deal to do with establishing Santa Claus as a ubiquitous Christmas figure in America at a time when the holiday was still making the transition from a religious observance to a largely secular and highly commercial celebration. In an era before color television (or commercial television of any kind), color films, and the widespread use of color in newspapers, it was Coca-Cola’s magazine advertisements, billboards, and point-of-sale store displays that exposed nearly everyone in America to the modern Santa Claus image. Coca-Cola certainly helped make Santa Claus one of the most popular men in America, but they didn’t invent him.

Last updated: 27 February 2001

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For those of you who would like to do something nice and Christmassy for our wounded troops you can send cards and letters to Walter Reed Hospital (202-782-2071) c/o American Red Cross, OIF/OEF Soldiers, 6900 Georgia Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20307
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For a great article and suggestions and links of fun stuff to do for Christmas you can go here

For fun crafts and links, here

For classic stories, recipes and more, here

If you are interested in donating to charities and want to check out how effective and good they are, here

If your imagination and budget have no limits, check out this place – they make some awesome stuff and it’s all custom.

And finally just a cool really nice site, here

Have some fun, check out some of the sites depending on your interests and see what you think.

WC