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Santa Claus And The Post Card
By Bob Finnegan
( Article orginally published December 1960 )
How, Santa Claus makes his rounds on Christmas eve is just one of the things that make a Santa Post Card Collection interesting.
The jolly old gent, friend of children everywhere, has utilized every form of transportation imaginable to deliver gifts at Christmas time.
Besides his sleigh and reindeer, he has used cars, bicycles, balloons, airplanes, trains, wheel-barrows, skis, toboggans, horses, and other means, but he always gets the goods delivered.
Artists have also pictured him in many different ways and in different costumes. He has appeared on post cards as being fat, slim, bald, bearded, aged, merry, sad, etc. He has been shown in rags, religious garb, costumes of blue, green, brown, purple, and white, as well as the traditional fire-red suit that he will be wearing this year.
Most of the older Santa cards are embossed, many have tinsel and satin appliques. Some had metal Santas, or Christmas trees attached to them, and some had cloth holly with berries pasted on.
A collectiop of Santa is unbelievably varied, and indicates much about the evolution of our favorite caller at Christmas. It shows that the Santa we know today, with his red and white suit, his red nose, white whiskers, and round belly, is a fairly recent standardization. It has, in fact, come about in the past 50 to 100 years. Prior to that Santa's looks were a "free for all."
Just how old is Santa Claus? Where does he come from? Why does he enter by way of the chimney? Why does he drive a sleigh?
Even the best reference sources do not agree about the ancestry of the jolly, big-hearted fellow we know.
But, after all, is it so important whether the name Santa Claus has its origin in the Dutch ".Sinterklaas," or in the German "Cristkindl" or "Kriss Kringyle?"
It is generally agreed that the idea for our modern day aanta Claus began with a young boy called Nicholas over 1600 years ago.
During his early years, growing up in the Asia Minor portion of present-day Turkey, he was generous and pious. These qualities grew within him until as a man he became the bishop of Myra.
His most famous deed of generosity was directed toward three beautiful daughters of a poor nobleman. He wanted dowries for his children so they could be married.
So, Nicholas, on three different nights, tossed bags of gold through a window of their home, and each daughter could be married and well cared for.
Down through the centuries the story of Saint Nicholas was carried to other countries, and when unexpected gifts appeared they were attributed to him.
Dutch children still wait for Saint Nicholas, or "Sinterklass" as they call him. He is pictured as a kindly, white-bearded bishop who rides a white horse over the housetops and he lowers his gifts down the chimney.
It is to this "Sinterklass," brought over by the early Dutch settlers, that we give thanks for Santa's custom and method of giving, for the full white beard, riding over housetops, and partially, for his name.
Santa Claus had many ether forerunners, some who stil bring gifts in his place to children in other lands.
Another "ancestor" of Santa came from Germany. "Christkindl," sometimes called "Kriss Kringle," is a little messenger of the Christ Child. This same angel also was the giftgiver to the Swiss children. There the angel arrived in a sleigh dawn by six reindeer. The elves, Santa's helpers, are "imported" from Norway.
Dr. Clement Clark Moore, ia seminary professor, wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ("The Night Before Christmas") for his children. He vividly described Santa Claus, bring together all the many legends he knew.
In 1863, cartoonist Thomas Nast was commissioned to illustrate Moore's poem. Santa Claus, much as we see him today pictured everywhere at Christmas, emerged from Nast's drawing board 97 years ago in New York City.
Since then, this red and white garbed fellow known as Santa Claus - with the big heart, the jolly face, and abundant good-will is here to stay, and is now quite, quite real for every child, young and old.