The good cheer that comes with Santa Claus is pervasive. It is not just children, even grownups revelling in the spirit of the season want to believe in him and the world does become a simple happy place around this time. No matter which part of the world you are in, during Christmas you will undoubtedly see at least one person dressed up as Santa Claus, and the sight invariably brings joy and spirit of celebration that the festival carries with it
Ho…Ho…Ho Spreading the Christmas Cheer…
It’s Christmas cheer all around and with it comes Santa Claus, good old Christmas man who comes flying on his sleigh and brings with him a whole lot of gifts for the good amongst us. Yes, most children, according to a study, do believe in Santa Claus until around eight years of age when they realise the gifts are actually stashed away by the elders, in the middle of the night. Yet, the spirit of Christmas and the good cheer that comes with Santa Claus go hand in hand making us want to believe in him.
The concept has changed in modern times and Santa has donned many a hat; for example, departmental stores in the West hire a Santa to sit with kids and listen to their wish list of toys and gifts. The corporate world turned Santa into the concept of ‘Secret Santa’ wherein employees give each other gifts anonymously. No matter which part of the world you are in, during Christmas you will undoubtedly see at least one person dressed up as Santa Claus, and this invariably brings joy and spirit that the festival carries with it.
The spirit of Christmas
Santa Claus remains an important tradition associated with Christmas. He represents everything the festival is celebrated for. Joy, good cheer and good luck, to name a few. Over the years Santa has been portrayed through various mediums to educate people about the spirit of Christmas and why this unique festival is celebrated across the world with so much grandeur and pomp.
In the early days, stories of Santa and his deeds would be narrated by parents as bedtime stories to the kids. It was a way to make children behave all year round in hope that a jolly old man in a red suit and a white beard would climb down their chimney on Christmas morning and drop off presents under the tree. Presents were an incentive for good behaviour of children. Good kids got presents, naughty kids got coal.
This was the narrative that was woven and for a long time and it was a success. It was almost considered to be a rite of passage into adulthood when children find out that Santa Claus isn’t real. The modern times, however, still hold Santa in high regard. And the way people look at this iconic figure has changed as well over the years.
Television shows for kids, video games, storybooks have all tried to capture Santa Claus is different forms. The history of Santa on television has been an incredibly long one with him featuring in several movies, Christmas specials, cartoons, sitcoms, etc.
The fascinating aspect and the one that gives Santa Claus so much power is the adaptability of the character. No matter how diverse it may be, most cultures have imbibed this man and changed him suitably as well to fit their views and needs. For instance, the movie ‘Polar Express’ was an animated movie about a young boy riding on a train to meet Santa at the North Pole. It proved to be a major hit as it had flawless animation but most importantly, it once again portrayed Santa as the man and spirit who embodies Christmas.
And not to forget the one literary adaptation of Christmas that is retold almost every decade, ‘A Christmas Carol’. This book is a classic and has been adapted into several forms. It talks about a miserly man named Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts of the past, present and future who help him amend his ways and find the meaning of Christmas.
The commercialisation of Santa
Technology and the internet have helped people access information readily with a few clicks. In such a scenario, when kids can just google information, it is impossible to maintain the charade that Santa is a real person and not a fictional character. So, the way Santa is viewed has changed drastically. Whereas in earlier days, people would link Santa with the spirit of Christmas and encourage people to do good deeds, the Santa of today is more closely linked to the spirit of capitalism. Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year when it comes to shopping and most businesses make a killing during this season. Linking the image of Santa Claus with people’s sense of gifting, it plays on the nostalgia that people feel during this season. Most businesses bank on people getting carried away by the Christmas cheer in the haze of carols, snow and eggnog and spending heavily on their shopping lists, because, it’s Christmas!
Santa over the years
Creating the image of Santa has not been easy and neither has it been consistent through the ages. History shows that in earlier days he was closely depicted as Father Christmas and in a green robe, unlike the red robes he is often seen in today’s times. Movies too along with various pieces of literature have focused on the story of Santa. There have been some light-hearted family movies and some really serious ones as well, but they all have one thing in common, they tend to capture the spirit of Christmas perfectly. ‘Santa Claus: The Movie’, ‘Bad Santa’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and even the recently released Netflix movie, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ tackle the image of Santa albeit in varied manners. But it’s not only the West that embraces the image of Santa through media, but it can also be seen that Indian media too has been increasingly showing Santa during this time.
The importance of Santa Claus
In today’s times, people hold onto the belief of Santa because even though they know he doesn’t exist, it gives them hope and the strength to be a better version of themselves. Recently, former president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, the first black president in the history of the country played Santa and visited a children’s hospital. He spent a lot of time with the kids, interacting with them and offering words of support and encouragement. He also interacted with the families of the children sharing his Christmas cheer with them. The entire hospital lauded his arrival and the children were especially touched and thrilled to see such a big name in front of them standing humbly and wanting to share good cheer and gifts of course.