Urban Legends

‘Santa Claus’, also known as ‘Saint Nicholas’, ‘Father Christmas’, ‘Kris Kringle’ and simply “Santa”, is a figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins who, in many ‘Western’ cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on 24 December, the night before ‘Christmas Day’. Since the 20th century, in an idea popularized by the (1934) song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, ‘Santa Claus’ has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior (“naughty” or “nice”) and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the well-behaved children in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve.

‘L. Frank Baum The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus’, a (1902) children book, further popularized ‘Santa Claus’. Much of ‘Santa Claus’ mythos was not set in stone at the time, leaving ‘Baum’ to give his “Neclaus” (Necile’s Little One) a wide variety of immortal support, a home in the Laughing ‘Valley of Hohaho’, and ten reindeer—who could not fly, but leapt in enormous, flight-like bounds. ‘Claus’ immortality was earned, much like his title (“Santa”), decided by a vote of those naturally immortal. This work also established ‘Claus’ motives: a happy childhood among immortals. When Ak, Master Woodsman of the World, exposes him to the misery and poverty of children in the outside world, ‘Santa’ strives to find a way to bring joy into the lives of all children, and eventually invents toys as a principal means.

Images of ‘Santa Claus’ were further popularized through ‘Haddon Sundblom’ depiction of him for The ‘Coca-Cola Company’ Christmas advertising in the (1930). The popularity of the image spawned urban legends that ‘Santa Claus’ was invented by The ‘Coca-Cola Company’ or that ‘Santa’ wears red and white because they are the colors used to promote the ‘Coca-Cola’ brand. The image of ‘Santa Claus’ as a benevolent character became reinforced with its association with charity and philanthropy, particularly by organizations such as the ‘Salvation Army’. Volunteers dressed as ‘Santa Claus’ typically became part of fundraising drives to aid needy families at ‘Christmas’ time.

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