Last Christmas Eve, we contemplated what might happen if Santa had got hold of a motor car in the early days of internal combustion engines (I’m still wondering if poor old unemployed Rudolph would qualify for Jobseekers Allowance, what with him being a reindeer and all).
Hunting for Christmassy stuff this year, I discovered this wonderful cover image from the December 19th 1909 edition of the New-York Tribune. I can just imagine the havoc caused on that Christmas Eve when fly boy Santa took off for his rounds in that precarious plane…
From all this, I can only conclude that Santa is an enthusiastic early adopter of technology – you know the type – he’s gone from a car in 1896 to a plane thirteen years later (and only a mere six years after the first powered flight by the Wright brothers at that).
These days, he’s probably got an iPad, sat nav, and checks his list in the cloud. He’s also annually tracked by the modern satellite technology of NORAD (which is possibly a little worrying if you think about it too much…).
However thoroughly modern Santa has become with his transportation (personally, I’d argue that reindeer are much more reliable that Siri in the long run), he’s still using old school magic tech to physically get down all those chimneys and deliver your presents. It’s hard work being an omnipresent semi-mythical gift-bringer, so I hope you’ve left out some mince pies and a shot of something warming for the poor guy!
And I really hope poor old Rudolph has finally got to put his hooves up…
For much more festive reading, follow the links here.
No, the date in the title of this post isn’t a typo. This final festive selection from the BFI National Archive really is a rare and unusual late Victorian film short, which uses some extremely clever and – for the time – groundbreaking special effects to show a Christmas Eve visit from Santa Claus to two excited young children. Made by G.A. Smith (1864-1959), an ex-magic lantern operator, hypnotist and one of the pioneers of British cinema, this is, in the words of Michael Brooke at the British Film Institute, “one of the most visually and conceptually sophisticated British films made up to then”. Aside from that, it’s also an endearing and rather sweet encapsulation of the thrill of a childhood Christmas Eve, all distilled into less than a minute and a half…
For more from the BFI National Archive, visit their website or their excellent YouTube channel. You can also find more BFI festive goodies (and numerous other seasonal posts) on Another Kind Of Mind here.
And a very Merry Christmas to one and all!
Over the years I’ve written a ton of posts on a festive theme, which have all proved to be very popular with you lot – in fact, it’s become a bit of a seasonal tradition round these parts (indeed, one of my long-time readers reckons I should actually write a book on the subject! I might. One day). There’s so many of these Christmas posts now that I figured it was about time I put them all in one place for easy access. So if you’re feeling Christmassy and fancy a good read, click on any of the links below to find out more…
- Dreaming of a White Christmas? – Snow Facts (2009)
- The Little Ice Age and London’s Frost Fairs (2009)
- Christmas Superstitions (2009)
- The Sun Stands Still: the Winter Solstice and other Midwinter Festivals (2009)
- You Better Watch Out!: A Brief History of Santa Claus (2009)
- Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2010)
- How to have a very merry green Christmas (2010)
- A 17th Century Christmas Miscellany (2010)
- A Victorian Christmas Miscellany (2010)
- A Wartime Christmas Miscellany (2010)
- Festive Felonies (2011)
- Mulled Wine: Mulling it over (2011)
- The Solstice Fire (2011)
- Christmas in London: The Geffrye Museum (2012)
- Christmas in London: The Shoreditch Angel (2012)
- Christmas in London: The Natural History Museum (2012)
- Christmas in London: The Trafalgar Square Tree (2012)
- Stir-Up Sunday (2013)
- Charles Dickens and the Story of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (2013)
- Post Early For Christmas… (2014)
- Christmas in London: The Oxford Street Lights (2014)
- World War One: A Home Front Christmas Miscellany (2014)
- Christmas on Film: ‘Making Christmas Crackers’ (1910) (2014)
- Christmas on Film: ‘Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost’ (1901) (2014)
- Christmas on Film: ‘Christmas Under Fire’ (1941) (2014)
- Christmas on Film: ‘Santa Claus’ (1898) (2014)
- Christmas on Film: ‘New Year Greeting’ (1949) (2014)
- Christmas on Film: ‘Lonely Lightship’s Christmas (1922)’ (2015)
- Vintage Christmas Puddings: A Fourth Helping (2015)
- Under The Mistletoe… (2015)
- The Red, Red Robin… (2015)
- Christmas in London: The First Trafalgar Square Tree (1947) (2015)
- Christmas on Film: ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1914) (2015)
- Merry Christmas to you all! (2015)
- Christmas on Film: ‘Christmas Greeting’ (1946) (2016)
- Christmas on Film: ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ (1904) (2016)
- Post early for Christmas – with some canine help! (2017)
- Christmas in London: A 17th Century Update (2017)
- Christmas on Film: ‘The Insects’ Christmas’ (1913) (2017)
- Christmas in London: Lighting the Darkness on Oxford Street (2017)
- Christmas in London: Snow Joke! (2017)
- A Thoroughly Modern Santa? (2017)
- Happy 2018! (2018)
- Post Early For Christmas… in Christmas!? (2018)
- Beware the Yule Cat! (2018)
- Football at Christmas: Sam Bartram in the Fog (2018)
- Please Mr Postman: A Brief History of Christmas Cards (2018)
- A Thoroughly Modern Santa Returns! (2018)
(I’ll also be adding links to any future Christmas posts as they’re published, so watch out for those too…)
So, who is he, this mysterious man in red? And why does he do what he does? At any other time of the year these days, a fat jolly bearded stranger (with several known aliases) landing on your roof and sliding down your chimney would result in a slap on the wrist from the Civil Aviation Authority, and a breaking and entering charge for the bearded one at the very least (if not an ASBO).
And, with cries of ‘animal cruelty’ ringing in his furry ears, poor Rudolph would probably be sent packing to a reindeer sanctuary somewhere in Scotland, and the sleigh would end up clamped and impounded by over-zealous traffic wardens. But before the nightmare of this horribly politically correct eventuality really does come to pass (and because I wouldn’t want any of you to wake up on Friday morning to an empty stocking), let’s find out exactly what’s going on here…
Santa Claus as we know him today is actually an amalgam of a number of different figures and archetypes, some real, some legendary. The first of these is probably the most important of all in the development of the Santa myth…
The 4th century saint
The first of the origins of the Santa legend can be found in a rather unexpected place. Not in the ancient nomadic tribes of Lapland or the North Pole, as we might expect, but in 4th century Turkey with the part-real/part-mythic St Nicholas. Like an increasing number of people during this early period in the development of the Christian church, Nicholas was a deeply religious man. In fact, the real Nicholas was a bishop in the Greek Orthodox Church. He was bishop of Myra, which is now in Turkey but was then part of Byzantine Anatolia, a position which meant he had a certain amount of power and influence.