20 December 2011

Day 19 of Christmas Nightlight Readings: "Santa Claus in Camp"

"Santa Claus in Camp"
As Clement Clark Moore lent tradition a vivid description of the 'jolly ol' elf,' Thomas Nast popularized the image of Santa Claus as we view him today: complete with red suit. His first published illustration of Santa Claus was in the January 1862 edition of Harper's Weekly. This issue included a full page spread of the sacrifices families were making the first Christmas of the American Civil War. (At this time the North was not fairing well in the war, as depicted in the smaller holly wreath below.) If you look close enough, there is a little Santa crawling into the chimney in the upper left corner.
"Christmas Eve"

Nast's inspiration in creating his vision of Santa Claus came from his German heritage, just as Moore was inspired. St. Nicholas, as the gift giver, was celebrated in Germany on December 6th. At was at this time, with the societal influence of Moore and Nast, that Santa Claus came to the United States as part of the secular and religious Christmas celebrations.

In most of Nast's Christmas illustrations he depicts Santa Claus, and as always the cartoons contain propaganda (if you didn't notice in the leading picture, Santa Claus is holding a puppet of Jefferson Davis). The following year, Nast drew the previous separated couple reunited.
"Christmas Eve, 1863"
By 1864, on the eve of Union victory, President Lincoln is shown absent of Santa Claus. In the illustration President Lincoln is shown ushering in soldiers into a banquet hall. The insets surrounding the large picture, show the Confederacy in acts of surrender and as the prodigal son returning home.
"The Union Christmas"
In the first Christmas illustration after the Civil War, a scene is drawn to illustrate the returning traditions of a "merry Christmas," now complete with the severed heads of former Confederate generals (at the bottom center of the picture).
"Merry Christmas to All"

"Santa Claus"

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