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."

1 comment:

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