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Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Many Faces of Santa

Last year at this time, I blogged about strange vintage Christmas cards, which featured (among other strange things) pigs, bugs and mushrooms.   

You really have to wonder if the Victorian artists or those illustrators from the early part of the 20th Century possessed an evil streak or did they simply embrace the season with that era's form of humor?  It is difficult to tell from where they found inspiration, as some illustrations were funny, but others were nonsensical, and dark in nature, and some appear to even embrace violence.   

For instance, dead frogs - how in the world does this suggest a Merry Christmas?  I continue to shake my head, in wonder!

And then, there is this:  A rat apparently hitching a ride on the back of a lobster.  This totally reeks of Christmas!  Not.

Translation:  "Peace, Joy, Health and Happiness."  

With the invention of the camera, Christmas became a favorite subject.  In the 6 photos, featured below, Santa is not always the jolly, sweet man with a white, pristine mustache and beard, whose twinkling blue eyes and merry laugh spread joy.  No, Santa appears to either have tied one on, or suffering the ill effects from the night before.  Let's face it - he's just plain creepy.  

Fortunately, the typical Santa is a more welcoming presence, and his happy demeanor remains his enduring charm and appeal to children and adults around the world.   

Image source:  bindblottyandcajole
The interesting thing about Old St. Nick, is how many ways he has been portrayed, throughout centuries. Santa Claus is known by many names, for example, in Poland, he is Swiety Mikolaj (St. Nicholas); in Russia, Ded Moroz (“Grandfather Frost”); in Sweden, Jultomten (“Christmas brownie”) and in the United Kingdom, he is Father Christmas.  He is also portrayed as a religious figure as either a Bishop or a Saint.  

If you have read my blog, you probably know by now that I enjoy reading and writing about the Victorian era, and love all things vintage.  These delightful illustrations, featured below, are from (mostly) vintage greeting cards.   They are extraordinary examples of the variations of this beloved figure.  

The reason I love the Victorian artists is because Santa is frequently featured in rich clothing that isn't always the typical white-fur lined red velvet suit.  Instead, he is often portrayed with an air of wealth and social status.  It is interesting to note the detail of illustration to show-case the embroidery and trimmings of his clothing, which are often indicative of this era. 

As you can see, Santa Claus can be thin or fat.  He can be merry or serious.  He can be seen wearing red, or blue or green or beige and apparently has a large assortment of hats.  He may carry a staff, parcels or a sack of toys.  The common denominator is that he always appears in the snow, donning his marvelous long, white beard, mustache and hair.  
However you spot Santa this year, his appearance is guaranteed to bring a feeling of joy to your heart, as we anticipate the sentiments of the season.   May the wonder of it all, be yours. 

Seasons Greetings, 
(with love)