As December 25th approaches, it’s up to us traditionalists to rise above the wave of commercialism to recognize the true meaning of Christmas — I am speaking, of course, about the story of Santa Claus.
Yes, yes, I know about The Nativity and the baby in the manger. We’ll get to that later in this post, but let’s first shed some light on Good Old Saint Nick.
For those seeking historical accuracy, the first incarnation of the Santa we know today occurred sometime after the birth of Christ. More exactly, it was one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three years after the birth of Christ.
The date was December 23, 1823 and the poem “A Visit from St Nicholas” was published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel. Later, the poem would be attributed to Clement C. Moore. The story, also known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” would work its way into popular culture by way of literature and music, eventually expanding into television and film, as well as a whole lot of product placement for Santa, Rudolph, and the other reindeer.
One can imagine the royalty and copyright bonanza this poem would have unleashed had it been written in more modern times. Consider what would have occurred if it had been written by Walter Elias Disney. Orlando would still be a quiet little hamlet and we’d be inundated by Rudolph World, the Santa Cruise Line, and countless theme park rides involving descents down chimneys.
Interestingly, there was, even back in the early 1800s, an intellectual property fracas over the poem’s origins. Some say Moore wrote the poem. Others say another New Yorker, Major Henry Livingston, Jr., authored the work. The moral, I suppose, is: put your name on the byline.
Yet, despite questions of authorship, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” demonstrates the power of the written word.
And speaking of the written word, this past year I took an unexpected literary side road and read Dodie Smith’s 101 Dalmatians. It was a quick, enjoyable read. Cruella de Vil, Pongo, CadPig, Twilight Barking. And at the end of the story I was surprised to find a subtle Christmas message.
The story of 101 Dalmations ends on Christmas Day. One of the reunited Dalmatians, Cadpig, recalls the building they slept in when they fled Cruella de Vil. Cadpig has no knowledge that the building was a church, but in her thoughts she knows that whoever owns that building is “someone very kind, she was sure.”
It’s the lasting power of the pen. Even that other Christmas story, the one about Joseph and Mary, and the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Yeah, that one’s still going along pretty well. Two-thousand years and counting. Not bad. Not bad at all.
John UrbanShare on Facebook