It’s that time of year again: the season of family gatherings, group singing, good cheer, and, of course, presents. And those presents are usually distributed by one particular person: a rotund gent who is always smiling through a fluffy white beard and dresses in a bright red snowsuit to protect him from the cold air while flying in an open sleigh.
He’s known as Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nickolas, Sinterklaas, and, to children of all ages here in North America: Santa Claus.
The most common image held in the west of Santa, the rounded figure with flowing white beard and red suit, comes to us courtesy of the advertising industry, notably Coca-Cola ads from the early 1930s. Santa was used in marketing sparkling water as early as 1915, but Coke’s version is the one that has had the most staying power.
In the Netherlands, Santa has a sidekick named Krampus (sometimes Grumpus) who threatens to kidnap naughty kids. Indeed, the early elves accompanied Santa on his nocturnal sleigh ride as traveling thugs to chastise naughty children. That Naughty List is definitely to be avoided. Assure your child that his or her name is on the Nice List with a Certificate from Sealed By Santa.
A part of world folklore since the late 1700s, it was only in the mid 19th Century that Santa acquired a Mrs. Claus, thanks to a short story called “A Christmas Legend” by James Rees. By the early 20th Century, he and his crew of elves had been busily making the toys throughout the year for the big night’s giveaway.
The idea of Santa sliding down chimney after chimney with his huge bag of presents came about courtesy of writer Washington Irving, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. In his satirical 1812 short story, “Knickerbocker’s History of New York”, he first depicted Santa’s descent from the city’s chimneys. After all, in those days, every house had at least one chimney, as an open fire was their only source of warmth.
The beloved poem “The Night Before Christmas” appeared in a New York newspaper in 1823 under its original name, “A Visit From St. Nicholas”. It was an anonymous work, although it has gained several self-confessed authors since then. The poem’s longevity has further built upon the Santa Claus mystique with its colorful descriptions of the Jolly Ol’ Elf that has remained part of the Santa lore.
In the early days, before people formally wrapped gifts in cloth bags or, later, paper wrapping, Santa’s practice was to secretly leave gold coins in people’s shoes. There’s a tradition that would be nice to reinstate.
Children have mailed letters to “Santa Clause, North Pole” for many decades. Since 1914, letters sent from the US have been redirected to a post office in Santa Claus, Indiana, where an army of volunteers endeavored to hand-write a reply to all who included a return address. Likewise, letters to Santa mailed in Finland are sent to postal code 99999, and those from Canada are routed to postal code H0H 0H0. The biggest volume of letters to Santa, however, tends to originate in France.
Some older European legends held that Santa’s workshop and base of operations were not at the North Pole, but somewhere in Spain. Though not as fanciful, it’s almost a certainty that the food is better there. A small town in Northern Finland, Rovaniemi, also claims to be the exclusive home of Father Christmas. Since the Elf has had so many identities, surely there are enough to go around. His common address of the North Pole would actually be on an ice shelf somewhere in the Arctic Ocean.
Santa’s itinerary for the 31 hours of nighttime that he has to work with as he flies across various time zones is indeed staggering. It has been estimated that he will typically make almost 850 million stops on that snowy, silent night. No doubt he has his reindeer on energy drinks for that amazing global flight, not to mention the time it takes him to down the milk and cookies left at each address.
Santa is thought to have nine reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and, of course, Rudolph. But to make the exhausting flight carrying 400,000 tons of toys, he would need some 360,000 of these magical creatures. Alternatively, he could cut a deal with Amazon to use their fleet of Prime delivery trucks.
To keep Santa’s flying legal, he actually holds an American pilot’s license and a Canadian e-passport. And, of course, he gets radar guidance from NORAD each year during the North American leg of his flight.
Does Santa receive a salary, and if so, from whom? Some calculations were made at Insure.com using wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and their ballpark guess is about $140,000 a year. (approximately the salary of the President of the United States). The IRS, however, would like to speak to him about the value of all that milk and cookies he gets as a perk.
Do you have little ones, or even not-so-little ones, waiting for Santa’s arrival? Let Sealed By Santa arrange for personalized letters from Santa Claus himself, directly to your family. Sealed By Santa can also arrange a live video call with your child. How about a certificate that places your child firmly on the Nice List? Or choose from our line of creative kits, which let your Santa watchers bake cookies, create handmade gifts, and even track Santa’s footsteps through your house. Visit Sealed By Santa today to get started.