The notion of a jolly ol' elf dropping in through our fireplaces on Christmas Eve with gifts for all good little boys and girls (they are all good, though, aren't they?) wasn't universal until the 1820s, when Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" caught the imagination of the American public.
A century later, America's most famous Illustrator, Noman Rockwell, gave this nonsecular — and already very commercial — character his iconic look. His commissioned works graced the pages of numerous magazines, including Boys' Life, Look, Popular Science, Life, and Time — not to mention his numerous covers for the Saturday Evening Post.
Is Norman Rockwell's iconic Santa the Ghost of Christmas Past?
Rockwell's art will always be a part of our collective memories regarding holiday cheer. But in a time of fear, where does Santa fit in?
Unfortunately, this year Christmas will be a bittersweet experience for too many of us. The economy still sucks, so we can't really blame our local stores for putting out the Christmas displays even before the Halloween costumes were pulled from their aisles. A third of their revenue comes through the door this month.
I will always love Rockwell's renditions of The-Man-Formerly-Known-As-Jolly St. Nick. It is probably my very first brush with art appreciation. What child can say otherwise?
But if the image of Santa standing by a Christmas tree bring out the Pavlovian response to buy buy buy, resist it. The truth is this: we can't spend our way out of a recession. The burdon of personal debt has to be weighed with the urge to put a little something under the tree for our loved ones.
Here's a thought: Forget the cashmere sweater, the latest and greatest eReader, or that non-descript gift card. Instead, tell them what the mean to you.
Find the words, open your mouth and say it.
Or write it down so that they have a lifelong keepsake. The notes I've kept from my long-departed loved ones mean more to me than what they left me under the tree, most of which is now long gone.
Over the next week, I'll up uplinking a different Norman Rockwell Santa, starting with–
THE SANTA ABOVE…
This Norman Rockwell illustration is from the December 4, 1926 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. He's scouring the globe for with his list of "Good Boys" in hand. Makes me wonder if his "Good Girls" book was twice as thick…
What with our now global economy, this work is a fitting reminder that we are all connected, in one way or another. (I'm guessing he'll be delivering lumps of coal to those banks who hold onto cash, and don't re-invest into their communities.)
Some other historic Santa illustrations:
Read an excerpt of
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK