Santa Claus was in my neighborhood yesterday. Before you roll your eyes and think I've had one eggnog too many, let me explain. I was out in my yard putting up Christmas lights when a white SUV pulled up in front of the house across the street. When I saw the occupant of the vehicle, I did a double take! It was Santa. Say what you want, but to anyone who knows anything about Christmas, this guy was the real deal. He had a white beard, a rather copious amount of white hair, and was wearing wire-rimmed spectacles. On this day, Santa wore a long-sleeved red undershirt with matching suspenders, but when he opened the door to his car, I could see that his traditional red, fur-trimmed suit and matching hat was lying on the seat. Now, since Santa Claus doesn't show up my neighborhood very often (ok, basically never) this jolly ol' elf definitely had my attention. What was going on? Within moments a woman from the other end of the street came bustling down the street to have what appeared to be a rather clandestine meeting with the old guy as they went over what seemed to be a list. Within minutes it was evident what was happening, and I had to smile. A children's Christmas party was at full throttle down the street, and ol' Kris Kringle was about to pay the little ones in attendance a surprise visit. This extraordinary fella wasn't THE Santa Claus at all - even though he could have fooled me, and indeed most anyone else. Although this pudgy and jovial gentleman looked an awful lot like the real deal, clearly this man was just another imposter. This guy was one of the thousands of Santa Claus impersonators that are out adding extra joy to the holidays during the Christmas season.
Retailers have been successfully using Santa impersonators as part of Christmas marketing strategy for well over a hundred years. Many years ago, an artist named Thomas Nast came up with the whole modern day concept of Santa Claus and his image as he is widely perceived today. Thomas Nast's drawings of Santa Claus were featured in 1862 in Harper's Bazaar magazine. In Thomas Nast's legendary illustrations, for the first time Santa was depicted as rather chubby, jolly, fully bearded, and wearing a bright red fur suit. In 1890, a merchant named James Edgar decided that dressing up as the beloved Kris Kringle might bring more business to his store. A Christmas tradition was born! For many generations afterward, retailers, shopping centers, shopping malls and many venues around the country have delighted children of all ages with their own hired Santa's. There's a good chance that even you have a planned outing to visit one of these characters over the holidays. Pictures are taken to capture the moment as children whisper their most heartfelt Christmas wishes into the old guy's ear. Whether he is "real" or not doesn't seem to matter--a visit to Santa has become an annual pilgrimage for the masses.
Regardless of where the roots of the real Santa Claus lie, there is no doubt that his status as one of the most legendary characters of Christmas is undeniable. If you are interested in upping your own Christmas game, creating your own "Santa" is very easy. With a proper Santa Claus style beard and a classic red Santa suit the transformation is complete. It's time to start practicing your best "ho, ho, ho!"