Backstory — Santa Claus, Part 3: Here Comes Santa Claus

We’re finishing off the series about Santa with a look at what happened to the legend when it reached America. The Santa we know today is largely an American invention, based on the Dutch legend of Sinter Klaas.

The modern Santa Claus was shaped by media and advertising

In America, Washington Irving wrote about Santa, and brought him one step closer to today’s familiar figure. But it was Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” that made a large impact on the image of Santa and his role in the Christmas celebration. Moore’s poem was first published without illustrations. The earliest versions that did include illustrations showed him as an elfin figure.

Illustrator Thomas Nast picked up the ball and put some more touches on Santa through annual illustrations for Harper’s Weekly.

Nast also helped further the Santa image by illustrating a book by George Webster titled Santa Claus and His Works, one of the first children’s books to be published in full color.

image of book cover: Santa Claus and his Works

Santa Claus and his Works

The Santa we know today is largely the result of paintings by Haddon Sundblom on behalf of Coca Cola, starting in the 1930s. This is the Santa we’re most familiar with: a full sized adult in a plush red suit and matching hat.

In this episode, Christine in California shares a Christmas memory about a toy she received as a child in the 1980s. The Petster was a voice-controlled robot cat:

Music in this episode

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