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Santa Claus: The Historical Origins and Evolution of the Legendary Christmas Figure

Narrated by: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 36 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Christmas is the most important holiday of the year. After the corresponding days that exalt the national pride of each country, such as Independence Day in the US, Victory Day in Russia, or Bastille Day in France, it's December 25 that articulates the life, the work, and the economy in much of the world, including many non-Christian countries. Since ancient times, the beginning of winter has been the occasion for most people to eat, drink, dance, and get together to beat the drum and take a break. 

Especially since the 20th century on, the days adjacent to the holiday have become an occasion to do big business. The winter season is the most solid stimulus for the economy - more than any fiscal package - since the incomes of families, spending, credit, and consumption in all productive sectors are significantly increased. In the US alone, Christmas sales are estimated to generate three trillion dollars. 

In the early 19th century, two literary works appeared and helped shape Christmas. The first was a collection of stories by Washington Irving, entitled Sketch Book, from 1819. The work "not only gave to American literature the characters of Ichabod Crane and Rip Van Winkle, but sparked widespread interest in Christmas as a cozy domestic ritual”. Next came "A Visit from St. Nicholas", a children's poem better known as “The Night Before Christmas”, which was published anonymously in 1823 but is traditionally attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, a university professor and Biblical scholar. The poem spread quickly and helped install a definitive image of Santa Claus in the popular imagination, with his sleigh, his eight reindeer (each one with a name), his red nose, and his journeys down chimneys to fill children's stockings with toys. Supposedly, Moore got his inspiration during a shopping outing in a sleigh, and he based his Santa Claus on a Dutchman who lived in Chelsea.

Meanwhile, the turning point for old St. Nicholas, now Santa Claus, came with the December 24, 1881 edition of Harper's Weekly. Artist Thomas Nast gave him his definitive look for the Christmas issue as an old man with a huge round belly and a belt, a thick white beard, a red nose, a cap, mistletoe on his head, a miniature horse toy in one hand, a pipe between his fingers, and a child hanging from his neck. 

Ever since, Santa has been known the world over for being delightfully paunchy and endlessly jolly. To most, these two descriptors alone are enough to conjure up his name and lead them to envision a round-bellied grandfather type clad in a fur-trimmed, cherry-red ensemble, armed with candy canes and a bottomless sack of presents, and blessed with a bushy, silvery white beard.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

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Outstanding Information

For some this may not have the "magical" appeal. However the information that is shared is amazing and holds a great deal of value. As a Santa portrayal artist, more is required in this age of information and this book came through with so much more than many others.