Sunday, December 22, 2013
The Civil War Roots of Santa Claus
Let others debate whether Santa Claus is white or not. There’s no debate that the definitive American Santa is
political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s Merry Old Santa Claus (detail shown above) from the New Year’s Day 1881 edition of Harper's Weekly. If it looks a lot like the picture in your head from Clement Clarke Moore’s "The Night Before Christmas,"
you’re right—Nast borrowed heavily from 1823 poem and its “cheeks… like
roses,” “nose like a cherry,” etc. But that wasn’t Nast’s first crack
at depicting Old Saint Nick. Nast actually first drew Santa for the American public in 1863, during the midst of the American Civil War.
In these sesquicentennial years of the War Between the States, it’s
important to also remember the smaller sesquicentennials, such as this
anniversary of the beginning of what we now “know” Santa to look like.
Black or white, fat or thin—Santa and his Civil War roots say as much
about the circumstances of his origins as about what he and the holiday
mean today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Civil War Roots of Santa Claus."