Santa Claus is not skinny, surly, vegan or fur-friendly. He doesn’t wear green, and he’s not clean shaven. He’s Jolly Old Saint Nick, and we universally love him.
Santa Claus is the most recognized fictional character in the world. He’s bigger than Superman, Harry Potter, James Bond or Ronald McDonald. He’s recognized in almost every country, even in countries where Christianity is not practiced.
He’s a character packed with meaning, memories and values.
Santa Claus Came
This morning millions of children woke up and ran to their living rooms to see if Santa had visited them. For the last two months they’ve heard over and over again, “Santa is coming, Santa is coming.”
They knew he was coming. In my family, we tracked his progress around the world with the NORAD and Google Santa Trackers. The excitement has been building all week, and was palpable last night as the kids went to bed.
My nieces and nephews are bundles of excitement today. The arrival of Santa Claus is a big deal. Not only do they get presents, they are having a day of family, friends and sharing.
200 Years of Stories
Our relationship with Santa Claus has been developed over 200 years of stories.
The character is easy to describe. Wikipedia describes Santa Claus as “a portly, joyous, white-bearded man—sometimes with spectacles—wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots.”
Our current image of Santa was set in the 1820’s by artists like Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas“—also known as “Twas The Night Before Christmas”. This is when artists packaged the story that Santa lives in the North Pole, works with elves and is flown around the world by eight reindeer (Rudolph was introduced in 1939).
Through the countless sharing and retelling of these stories, the image of Santa Claus has been set in our culture and our psyche.
Packed with meaning
Every year we are exposed to the stories, imagery and values of Santa Claus. And every year our relationship with Santa Claus is compounded.
The repetition and ceremony of Christmas is what makes Santa such a universally recognized and sticky brand. It’s a time of year of giving, sharing, family and celebration. And Santa is the primary symbol of the season.
Over the past 100 years, companies like Coca Cola and storytellers have socialized Santa. It doesn’t matter what you practice or believe, you can share in the values and experiences of Christmas. It’s a character that symbolizes giving, sharing, family and happiness. He is packed with values that resonate across countries and beliefs.
Have a very safe and happy holidays. I wish for you and your family a Merry Christmas!
(Image: Angelo Amboldi)