Tis’ the season. You can spot the jolly old image of Saint Nick anywhere now. He’s been broadcast all over the internet, displayed all over products and advertisements and portrayed by a countless number of men in malls, Christmas parties and that one uncle who always disappears right as its getting close to bed time.
We don’t know why but it seems that every year around the holiday season the little capitalist inside of us grows four times as strong. And while I’m sure that this materialistic urge to become ‘Santa’s little consumers’ indicates serious social problems and religious devaluation, I’d like to discuss a more traditional implication and that is the idea of Santa Claus.
The basis of the Christmas gift-giving character comes from a Christian bishop named St. Nicholas. Born in what is now Turkey, the Greek Bishop was known for using his inheritance to give to the poor and sick. After he died the stories of his gift-giving spread, giving birth to the legend of Father Christmas.
For generations, the stories of Santa Claus were told. We’ve seen various adaptations of his workshop and elves, we’ve see his sleigh rebuilt and designed (sometimes magically, sometimes technologically) we’ve seen many other characters developed as a part of the legend such as Mrs. Claus, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, etc.
He stunts on us every year at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, He’s been played and voiced by an incredible cast of actors such as Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Mickey Rooney, and Edmund Gwenn. He’s been shot, jailed, stoned, lost and forgotten. We’ve seen him paired with other characters we adore like, the Flintstones, Looney tunes, Mickey Mouse, etc. He’s been used to sell things from Coca-Cola and M&M’s to cars and jewelry.
Despite his socialist agenda of bringing joy and happiness to all, Santa Claus has become a propaganda powerhouse for capitalism and advertisement agencies in not just the US, but around the world. And so I ask, with his image plastered everywhere, with the same songs and stories rebooted every year; Has Santa Claus the icon become too big for Santa Claus the idea?