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Santa Claus got his well-fed, jolly, toy-laden image from a cartoonist named Haddon Hubbard “Sunny” Sundblom, who was trying to sell Coca-Cola during the Depression.
Sundblom was unhappy with existing Clauses. He didn’t like that the Santas of Nast and Moore smoked a pipe. He also wanted Santa to be human-sized; Moore’s was a mere elf. Charity Santas struck him as meager, threadbare — the very opposite of the jovial abundance he wished to evoke.
And so, in that dark Depression year, Sundblom created the most joyous, enormous and toy-laden Santa he could imagine. Like the effervescence of Astaire-Rogers pictures — big hits in the middle of the dreary decade — Sundblom’s Santa would become the collective dream of Americans, the hope for impossible plenitude. And if toys couldn’t be had, at least there was always the relatively attainable Coke.
Ever wonder what’s it’s like to spend your entire day as a department store Santa? Here’s our time-lapse video from Macy’s Santaland.
Can you imagine dressing up as Santa every day? A new documentary follows a professional Kris Kringle in an effort to humanize the men behind the myth.
After a lesson at professional Santa school, in which he’s told, “Your actions should be nonverifiable” in relation to his promises to children (which means he can claim to be friends with the president and God), he reports back dryly, “In essence, I‘ve been given permission to lie to children.”