Irish for a Day

The history of Saint Patrick’s Day has its origins in the Catholic religion. Although St. Patrick is the most widely recognized, he is one of many patron saints of Ireland. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious day of feasting. Much like a federal holiday in the United States, banks, shops, and businesses are all closed on March 17th in Ireland.

Although St. Patrick was born in Britain and the very first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York in 1762, the holiday has become a general celebration of all things Irish. Until 1931 Ireland mostly celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by attending church and enjoying the traditional and now infamous “St. Paddy’s meal” of corned beef and cabbage.

The Wearing of the Green

Wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is a worldwide tradition, despite the fact that the color blue was most often associated with Saint Patrick. There is even a sky blue shade called ‘Saint Patrick blue’. The term ‘the wearing of the green’ came from Saint Patrick himself, using the shamrock to explain the holy trinity to Irish who didn’t subscribe to Christianity.

In America, the green of St. Patrick’s Day is taken to a level the Irish couldn’t have imagined. The city of Chicago has dyed the river green since the 1960’s. Cities in Georgia, Indiana, Washington, Missouri and South Carolina commemorate St. Patrick’s Day by dying or painting parts of the city green.

St. Patrick’s Day partygoers celebrate by finding creative ways to wear green. Whether it’s leprechaun costumes, giant four-leaf clovers, or “kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts, wearing green creatively is appreciated. Plastic green hats or green glitter hats are common headgear on St. Paddy’s Day. The costume theme of St. Patrick’s Day is: green, green, and a little more green.

Around the world green beer is a popular choice on St. Patrick’s Day to wash down your corned beef & cabbage!

Out of Ireland

People from around the world look forward to March 17th to celebrate their genuine or honorary Irish-ness. From eating a traditional Irish meal and drinking green beer to wearing green in the most imaginative ways, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Japan, Argentina, New Zealand, and Canada even though it is only a provincial holiday there.

The United States has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in a big way since 1762. Irish soldiers on duty for the colonial army of Britain held a parade to celebrate their Irish heritage on March 17.

Parades are held around the world to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, with bagpipes and kilts as the most worn outfit of the day. Whether you’re of Irish descent or just wish you were, St. Patrick’s Day has become a secular holiday where all are allowed to join in the festivities.

The popularity of St. Patrick’s Day in the United States prompted the Irish government to begin celebrating a little more…vigorously. In 1995, the government underwent a national movement to make the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day a truly Irish affair. Not to be outdone, Ireland now celebrates the holiday as a weeklong festival with food, music, dancing and a general celebration of being well, Irish.

Master the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl

The pub crawl is generally a rite of passage for brides-to-be, recently minted 21-year-olds, and just about any other group of people with something to celebrate. Put simply the pub crawl is when a group of people go from one pub or bar to the next, enjoying at least one alcoholic beverage in each establishment.

Since no holiday is more synonymous with pub crawls than St. Patrick’s Day, let’s get you prepared for your very first (or 1,oooth) St. Paddy’s Day pub crawl.

Pub Crawl Attire

The most important detail of a St. Paddy’s Day pub crawl—other than which establishments to visit—is what to wear. Pub crawl participants stand out from the rest of the bar patrons because their attire generally shares a common theme.

The t-shirt is perhaps the most widely accepted pub crawl attire. T-shirts adorning naughty St. Patrick’s Day graphics or phrases are often worn so that participants can get the signature of a bar owner or bartender to commemorate each stop on the pub crawl. Sororities and Fraternities often use the signatures on the t-shirt to determine the “winners” of the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls. The winner is the group with the most signatures from different pubs.

St. Paddy’s Day Pub Crawls

Not all pub crawls are created equal however. Groups all around the world organize bar crawls for charity, for fun or just to celebrate March 17th.

Themed pub crawls frequently require participants to wear a certain color—like green for St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls–to promote their cause or event. St. Patrick’s Day seems to be the favorite pub crawl holiday, with participants dressing as leprechauns, life-size four leaf clovers, and generally any and all shades of green.

St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls are the perfect opportunity to break out your most outrageous costume, since the entire world is dressed in emerald. Those pub crawlers feeling extra in the spirit dress as green bagpipers and go from pub to pub singing Irish melodies. Don’t sing “Oh, Danny Boy” in Chicago pubs however because the song was banned on St. Patrick’s Day due to its drunken sadness.

Pub Crawl Comfort

As fun as it may be to go all out for your pub crawl costume or outfit, comfort should be your primary concern. Really great pub crawls attempt to hit at least 7 bars for the night, and the truly spectacular drinkers aim for 10 on St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls. What does this mean for the novice crawler? It means that pub crawls last for hours and the most effective mode of transportation is usually the feet.

Walking from pub to pub can become a hassle if you aren’t wearing the right shoes, and this advice isn’t just for ladies. Costumes with complicated or impossible to walk in while inebriated shoes may garner a few laughs, but your feet won’t be laughing by the time you hit up pub #5. Imagine how sore your feet will be after 8 hours in buckled leprechaun shoes!

Don’t delay, snatch up your Paddy Day costume now, and get ready to enjoy your green-filled adventure!

Mardi Gras : A Colorful Celebration

Brief History of Mardi Gras

When many people think of Mardi Gras, the first image that comes to mind is costumed and beaded partygoers in the Big Easy. That’s pretty much the modern version of Mardi Gras, but the history is more than just beads and costumes.

Traditionally a French celebration, Mardi Gras came to North America in the late 1600’s. The Le Moyne brothers were sent by King Louis XIV to protect French territory, which now includes the states Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. When the brothers landed with their party, the day was March 3, 1699, a French holiday known as Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French and it refers to a day of decadence and indulgence before the Catholic ritual of Lent, where weeks of fasting take place for Catholics. Mardi Gras officially starts the day before Ash Wednesday–the official start of Lent—but many begin their celebration as early as January 6th or as late as 3 days before Ash Wednesday.

In celebration of Mardi Gras people wear masks and lavish costumes. There are no set rules for how a Mardi Gras costume should look, but many costumes are a nod to the French roots of Mardi Gras. It’s not uncommon to see people dressed as French royals or aristocrats from the 1600’s and 1700’s. Costume balls are common in celebration of Mardi Gras, as are masquerade balls that allow partygoers to be hidden while they indulge on delicious food, alcohol, and other tawdry behavior!

Although many choose to dress as French royals, many more have one simple rule for Mardi Gras costumes—make them extravagant! From peacocks to jazz legends, priests and feather-adorned showgirls, Mardi Gras costumes have become one of the celebration’s biggest attractions. Many Mardi Gras costumes are a blend of the rich culture in New Orleans. Costumes often embrace French, Caribbean and African cultures to make colorful and ornate Mardi Gras costumes.

Mardi Gras marching bands play through the streets of New Orleans often dressed as lavishly as the partygoers. The morning of the Mardi Gras parade, jazz musicians in elaborate costumes wake the city of New Orleans up with music. Thousands of people come to the Mardi Gras parade dressed in equally impressive costumes. Between the parade and onlookers, very few people are without their Mardi Gras costumes.

The beads that have become a common fixture at Mardi Gras celebrations across America give revelers yet another reason to choose at least one outrageous costume. However, since the festivities last several days and often include dozens of parties and costume balls, many partiers choose more than one Mardi Gras costume. The more elaborate and eye-catching the costume, the more beads and doubloons (gold coins) available to you!

Not your Typical Valentine’s Day

These days, we pretty much know what to expect on Valentine’s Day. Flowers, cards, chocolates – the usual. Or is it? This hasn’t always been the V-day drill. Other times and other countries have practiced traditions that may raise eyebrows today.

In France, heart day used to include a custom called “drawing for.” Unmarried people of all ages would file into houses that were facing each other, and then they’d “window shop” from across the alleyway. They’d call out to each other and choose a partner before pairing off. If a guy didn’t find his date particularly engaging, he’d dump her and find something else to do. Later that night, the jaded girls would gather around a bonfire and nurse their wounded egos together. They’d burn images of their exes and yell insults at them.

An old Italian tradition was for young single women to wake up before dawn and gaze out their window, waiting for a man to walk by. The first hunk to cross her path was either the man she was destined to be with, or bore a resemblance to the man she was supposed to marry. Best case – she found a man. Worst case – she only got a clue.

Another tradition was for girls to write the names of boys on several small pieces of paper, and then hide them in the middle of balls of clay. Then they’d toss the clay balls into a pool of water, and wait for them to dissolve. The first name to break free of the melting clay and float to the top was the boy she was supposed to marry.

Other girls would pin a bay leaf to each corner of her clothed body, which was supposed to make her dream of her future husband. If that didn’t work, there was always going to the church yard at midnight with a handful of hempseed. The girls would circle around the building, dropping the seeds while they chanted something along the lines of, “My true love is on his way and will be here soon.”

But perhaps the oldest Valentine’s tradition of all is the Festival of Lupercalia held in Rome, which is believed to be the pagan festival that Valentine’s Day was meant to replace. The festival was held every February 14, and women would write love letters and stuff them into a big urn. Then the men would pull a letter from the urn, and he’d pursue whoever wrote the letter he chose.

Although we celebrate today’s sappy holiday a little differently than those of yesteryear, all the essentials are the same. We’re still hoping to fall in love, stay in love, and do it all again next Valentine’s Day.

Man Starts Fire for Love

Man pops question, woman says yes, ring goes on finger. It’s the oldest Valentine’s Day script in the book. It’s been done a million times – and there are only so many ways to do it, right? A ring is found in a glass of wine, or a proposal is written across a score board. Sweet. Romantic. Memorable. But cliché.

But then you have the bizarre few that ditch the romance and go for the wacky. After all, what’s more memorable than the absurd?

Here’s a story of a guy who was guilty of “stealing” his lover’s heart and “breaking into” her soul. So he made friends with an officer and staged his own arrest. He used his one call to phone his sweetheart and tell her there’d been some sort of mistake, and she needed to come down to the station to bail him out. When she got there, she found him cuffed and confused. Then he surprised her by telling her he’d been found guilty of robbery and was now expecting a life sentence. “Baby, I robbed your heart, broke into your soul, and now I’m hoping for a life sentence by your side. Will you marry me?”

Or check out the avid gamer who invited his girlfriend to play a game of Halo with him. Half way through the game, his character led the way into a private area, where he’d used his virtual weapons to spell out “Marry me?” Pretty clever, and easy to do. It just took a little thought and preparation beforehand – and a girl that was as into gaming as he was.

Another guy staged a burial for Rover, the family dog that was 15, balding, and blind in one eye. He called up his girl and told her the old fur ball finally kicked the bucket, and could she please come hold his hand while he said his last goodbyes. While he was digging the grave, he feigned surprise when he hit something hidden in the dirt – a small wooden box with a picture of the two of them on the outside. He opened it up and exposed the contents – small souvenirs from their time together, and a sweet diamond ring that made up for the lie.

And then there’s the guy whose girl was just too hot to handle. He lit himself on fire to make the point. He enlisted the help of his trained, stunt-devil buddy to make sure the story didn’t have a tragic ending. He covered up in some protective gear, then lit himself on fire before jumping into the pool. Then, dripping wet and totally unharmed, he went to his girlfriend’s side and told her she made him hot, and asked her to make him hot forever.

One thing all of these stories have in common is that they’ll definitely be worth telling during the couple’s next 50 years together. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter if it’s sappy or slapstick – the proposal is just a means to an end. What matters is the promise being made and the happily ever after.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

A Masked New Year’s

Masquerade masks were originally created in Italy as a sort of diversion for the townspeople during festival season, and caught on quickly as, once hidden behind a mask, the noblemen and women could freely mingle with the commoners during festival. Old Italian law stated the two classes were not allowed to mingle, a law which, if broken could result in severe punishment. Even in the face of such punishment, the noblemen and even clergy would mask themselves and interact with the commoners, doing their best to ferret out valuable political information from them. The design of the masquerade mask could be as plain or as elaborate as the designer could imagine. Because beads, ribbon and feathers were generally plentiful and vibrant, they were common items in masks. After their inception in Italy, the popularity of the masquerade mask spread quickly throughout the world.

Types of Venetian Masks

There are five basic Venetian mask types which are made from leather, paper mache’ or with the application of gesso and gold leaf.

The Bauta mask, with its square jawline, pointed chin and no mouth, covered the face for complete anonymity. The Bauta is one of the oldest Venetian masks, whose true name is “Larva,” meaning ghost mask. The Bauta mask was made with a jutting beaked front, enabling its wearer to both eat and drink while remaining masked—the design also changed the tone of the wearer’s voice, adding even further to the mystery. The Bauta was always either black or white and was the one mask which was not worn solely at carnival times; it was actually compulsory for women to don the Bauta mask when enjoying a night at the theater.

The beautiful black velvet oval mask, believed to enhance the feminine features, is known as a Moretta or Servetta Mutta, meaning a mute maid servant, probably because the wearer was unable to speak due to the mask’s design. The Moretta mask originated in France but became quite the rage among Venetian women who wore it while visiting the convent, perhaps to help ensure their silence. While the original Moretta mask was held in place through a button clenched between the wearer’s teeth, today’s Moretta masks favor ties.

The Larva or Volto masquerade mask is almost all white, and usually worn with a three cornered hat to complete the costume. Like the Bauta, the shape of the mask allowed the wearer to breathe and drink, therefore there was no need to take it off and expose one’s identity. The Larva masks were made of fine wax cloth, and were extremely lightweight, making them ideal for eating, dancing—and flirting!

The Columbino mask was a half-mask, held up to the face by a baton or tied with a ribbon. It was a beautiful actress from the sixteenth century who inspired the Columbino; it was rumored that she thought herself too beautiful to cover her entire face. Combine masks are generally decorated with fur, feathers, jewels, gold, silver and crystals.

The Medico Della Peste mask (The Plague Doctor). A french physician named Charles de Lorme was the mask’s designer who actually created the mask as a precaution for treating patients with the plague. Medico Della Peste is a complete full-faced mask which sports a long, narrow, hollow beak. These masks are generally solid white, with round eye holes covered with crystal discs.

The domino mask is a small rounded mask covering only the eyes and the space between them; Venetian Carnival masks were known as domini because they resembled French priests’ winter hoods, being black on the outside and white on the inside. The domino mask is similar to the masquerade mask, however lacks the embellishments and decoration.

The most popular colors of the masks were generally bright oranges, reds, blues and greens, with darker colors usually being reserved for the men’s full-face mask. Masks are still widely used today whether at a Venetian carnival, an unconventional wedding, costume balls, or special festivals such as Chinese New Year and Renaissance Fair. One of the most popular uses is in the celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Masquerade masks are also frequently used as simply interesting pieces of artwork. New Year’s Masquerade balls are also incredibly popular event—after all, wearing a beautiful masquerade mask to bring in the New Year just seems to go hand in hand! The most popular colors for New Year’s parties tend to be black and white or black and silver, and many people use stick masks for these events as they can be worn intermittently. If you are aiming to look truly stylish and elegant this New Year’s, consider the addition of a masquerade mask to your costume.

Iconic Christmas Films

Everyone has that tradition that they follow every year. For some, like myself, it involves crowding around the television with family and watching their favorite holiday movie under comfortable blankets. And seeing as there is no shortage of Christmas movies out there, the hardest part comes down to picking which one to watch. What always helps though is knowing that the classics can never steer you wrong, that much is always certain.

A film for the whole family to enjoy, right down to the little ones all wrapped up in their footie pajamas and clutching their stuffed animals, is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Running for only 26 minutes, this book-turned-animated-movie was created by one of the greatest minds for children books, Dr. Seuss. A story that is simple and to the point, it’s not hard to see why this 1966 movie classic has captured the hearts of so many generations. Not to mention it’s extremely difficult to go wrong when you have Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, singing the infamous song “You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch” or the legendary film actor, Boris Karloff, bringing life to the Grinch himself.

Or how about going back one year for the treasured, A Charlie Brown Christmas? The name of Charles M. Schulz is no stranger to anyone who has grown up with the Peanuts comics printed in the Sunday paper. Here is another opportunity for grandparents, parents, and kids alike to enjoy when they watch this piece of holiday spirit. This is another short film at 25 minutes but the length of a movie does not make it what it is; it is the story of learning the spirit of Christmas for what it is. It also helps that the musical score is composed by none other than Vince Guaraldi, a composer behind all the soundtracks for the Charlie Brown films.

Miracle on 34th Street is a movie that will warm your heart and remind you that no one is ever too old to believe. When the original mall-Santa is found drunk and completely unreliable, an old gentleman by the name of Kris Kringle is taken in to fill the position. And with commercialism running wildly rampant, people easily forget just what it means to celebrate Christmas. This is the lesson that Kris Kringle hopes to teach a Macy’s executive named Doris Walker as her daughter, Susan, sees that perhaps the story of Santa Claus may not be a silly story after all.

And during this time of hope and cheer, there are still some who may lose their hope and faith when times are looking grim. For one such fellow, George Bailey, he sees everything he has worked so hard to preserve in his hometown begin to fall apart. He blames himself and starts wondering if it would be better for all if he simply ceased to exist. It’s a Wonderful Life was released back in 1946 and has since become one of the biggest Christmas movie icons to date. Witnessing a man struggle with his own inner turmoil, while his friends and loved ones want only for him to forgive himself. Their love for him manifests into a guardian angel who, in turn, shows George what life would be like for those in a world without him.

When in doubt, though, if you haven’t any idea what movie to settle on, you can never go wrong with A Christmas Carol. Originally a classic tale written by Charles Dickens, over the decades the novella has been adapted to various versions made for movies, television, radio, and theater. To date, the most recent movie rendition was released in 2009, a computer animated film starring Jim Carrey as the voice of the famous bah-humbug of a man by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge, as well as the three ghosts, by Disney. For a family viewing, I would recommend either The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) staring Kermit the Frog and his pals, or Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), which is filled with recognizable Disney characters. While those two are geared towards younger audiences, these are the ones that can be enjoyed by different generations because of the nostalgic feel that come with their versions in their story-telling.

Mrs. Claus: From Dutiful Wife to Spunky Modern Sidekick

Although our modern Santa Claus had a long evolution from the 3rd century bishop, Saint Nicolas, to the secular, jolly old elf of the 21st century, Mrs. Santa Claus seems to have sprung to life unexpectedly. Not based on myth or tradition, she simply appears at Santa’s side in popular writings by American authors in the mid-1800s.

The first mention of a Mrs. Santa Claus occurs in the writings of James Rees in 1849. Although his story features a couple disguised as an old man and his wife delivering wonderful gifts on Christmas Eve, the story ends with the characters not being Mr. and Mrs. Claus after all. But the idea is planted and soon begins to grow.

Over the next few decades Mrs. Claus is presented in stories as the supportive wife, handling the list of who’s been naughty or nice, or keeping Santa and his elves well fed. It wasn’t until 1889 that Mrs. Claus takes on a bit of personality of her own in the poem “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.” The endearing Mrs. Claus convinces Santa to take her with him on Christmas Eve. She tends the reindeer, but sadly, doesn’t get to deliver any toys! Always the helper, she mends a stocking for a poor little boy so Santa can fill it with presents.

For years, she continued to be portrayed as merely a background character, there to support Santa Claus in his exhaustive work. Mrs. Claus is often shown as a rotund, gray-haired, kindly woman, willing to selflessly help Santa and his elves in their workshop at the North Pole, feeding them her delicious meals, and making sure they are safely prepared for their long journey. Although this is the most common portrayal of Mrs. Claus, more recent stories and movies have featured Mrs. Claus in a variety of roles, showing her to be a resourceful and energetic woman who could almost handle Christmas Eve on her own!

Children’s books and television daringly featured Mrs. Santa as the main character. Books focusing on Mrs. Santa have been written since 1914, and television has had a great time with Mrs. Santa. She’s been everything from a vampire to the spunky main character of the 1996 Hallmark special, Mrs. Santa Claus.

Bringing Mrs. Santa Claus to Life!

Today, Mrs. Claus has a wide choice of stylish or traditional outfits to wear on Christmas Eve. Whether you are seeking a classic, warm-hearted Mrs. Claus costume, looking like she just stepped out of the North Pole kitchen, or a modern Ms. Claus who is ready to knock old Santa’s socks off when he returns from his journey, there is a costume available for every taste. She can be naughty or nice!

From the grandmotherly companion making sure that Santa wears his winter scarf to the vixen who first made Santa fall in love, Frankel’s Costume has the perfect Mrs. Santa Claus costume for your spectacular Christmas Eve. Bring Mrs. Claus to life!  Have her deliver the presents at the office party or your club’s Christmas celebration. Thrill the children early on Christmas Eve with a classic Mrs. Claus outfit, then delight Mr. Claus later by slipping into one of our sensational Mrs. Claus outfits, unheard of fashions when she first met Santa in the 1800s!

Be sure to check out our full line of Mrs. Santa Claus costumes. Dressed in the daring Sleigh Belle costume, you’ll be the star of the office party or the temptation that keeps Mr. Claus at home for the evening. In the  Mrs. Claus costume, you’ll look like you just arrived from the North Pole with a tray of cookies hot from the oven. Christmas Gift has you ready to be unwrapped for a delightful Christmas Eve surprise!

Brighten the Season with the Perfect Music for Your Christmas Party

You want your Christmas party to be a hit, and picking just the right music can help set the mood, whether your party is a subdued, formal event, a casual gathering of friends, or a raucous party. With the wide variety of Christmas music out there, there is no need to rely on the same old renditions of stodgy carols. No matter what the theme of your party or the tastes of your guests, there is a set of tunes that is perfect for the event. Consider some of the music below for your perfect Christmas party playlist.

Is your party a formal affair? There are few pieces that suggest the season with more taste, warmth and class than Handel’s Messiah.

You can also find string quartet or choral arrangements of Christmas hymns such as “O, Holy Night,” “What Child is This,” and others. Look for a CD like “Christmas Adagios,” which contains performances of pieces by Vivaldi, Franz Gruber, and Mozart, along with many other composers. One of the advantages of “Christmas Adagios” is its long playtime — over two hours — which can help cover a large segment of the evening, and simplify your music selections.

Another high class option is to choose jazz arrangements of popular and classic Christmas songs. “Louis Armstrong’s Christmas,” which contains performances by Eartha Kit, Duke Ellington, and other jazz and big band greats. Other recommendations to round out the music selections include: “Ella Fitzgerald Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas,” Ray Charles’ “The Spirit of Christmas” and the compilation: “Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas.” Brian Setzer’s “Christmas Comes Alive” is a relatively new album with that same old time jazz feel.

One unusual option is to seek out a World Music theme for your Christmas party playlist. Putumayo puts out a Christmas compilation each year with a range of artists from all over the world. Another great choice is Pink Martini’s “Joy to the World.”This CD is full of eclectic choices, featuring performances from such diverse musicians in languages including: Ukranian, Spanish, and Chinese.

There have also been plenty of rock music additions to the Christmas music canon. Fans of southern rock, punk, blues, and other rock and roll subgenres can find compilations to set the holiday mood. Several rock musicians have released entire Christmas and holiday themed albums, as well. Classic rock fans will enjoy Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Christmas Time Again.”You can’t go wrong with Steve Lukather’s “SantaMental”to please guitar god fans. The album is a lot of fun, with guests performances from musicians like: Slash, Steve Vai, and Edgar Winter.

One of the best Christmas party music strategies would be to mix up the tunes a bit so that everyone hears a bit of what they like. Play one or two jazzy pieces, followed by a traditional carol, then a bit of rock, for instance. Don’t forget to include music that does not strictly adhere to a Christmas theme, as well. By the time Christmas parties roll around, some people feel that they have already experienced an overload of Christmas music, and the everyday tunes will be a nice change of pace throughout the evening. No matter what sort of music you choose to set the festive holiday mood, guests will appreciate the special attention and the atmosphere created by your Christmas tunes.


Ho, Ho, Ho!

The familiar  figure of a jolly Santa Claus is everywhere during Christmas time: on Christmas cards, ubiquitously used in advertising, in film, and live in shopping malls and town squares. Who exactly is this character we all know and love, and where did he originate?

The jolly old elf we all recognize as the delightful deliverer of Christmas gifts to good, and sometimes naughty, children has a long history covering three continents and stretching all the way back to 280 AD. Today’s version of Santa Claus, dressed in warm red clothing trimmed with white fur, a long white beard, rotund and laughing, would be a strange vision to people several centuries ago, and we would certainly not recognize the ancient version that eventually evolved into today’s Santa Claus!

The historic roots of the Santa Claus myth stretch back to the 3rd and 4th century Turkey and the monk St. Nicholas. Born in 280 AD near what is now Myra, Turkey, St Nicholas is believed to have given away his vast inheritance, traveling the countryside giving assistance to the poor and sick. Although little factual information is known about his life, he did became a bishop at a young age and must have been a kind and generous man, as so many mythical stories tell of his enormous good deeds.

Over the centuries, he grew in popularity and was revered as a protector of children. By Renaissance times, he was one of the most popular saints in all of Europe, especially in Holland where his feast day on December 6th was joyously celebrated.

From Holland to their new home in the United States, Dutch settlers brought the tradition of Sinter Klaas, the Dutch form of Saint Nicholas’ name. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, he was a familiar character in New York where the Dutch settled. Sinter Klaas quickly evolved into the Americanized name Santa Claus and was portrayed as a rather stout Dutch sailor with a fur trimmed green coat and pipe. This imagery is quite a transformation from a thin, yet generous bishop from ancient times!

Washington Irving was one of the first to connect Santa Claus with Christmas. His descriptions were the inspiration for many writers and illustrators in the 1800s who pushed the image of Santa Claus much closer to the well-known, modern vision of a jolly, fat character, all dressed in red, delivering presents to children on Christmas Eve by slipping down the chimney.

By the early 1800s, stores began promoting Christmas shopping, and by the 1840s, newspapers joined in the holiday shopping spree with separate sections for advertisements. The first Santa appeared in a store in 1841, but just a model of him! It didn’t take long before stores featured a live Santa Claus to lure children and families to their holiday promotions.

Although ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was published in 1822, giving rise to the “jolly old elf” description of Santa, it wasn’t until 1881, when the political cartoonist Thomas Nast created a cartoon for Harper’s Weekly, that the modern version of Santa Claus was solidified. Complete with a sack of toys, dressed in bright red clothing trimmed with white fur, Nast’s version of Santa Claus stuck in the popular mind and has endured for 130 years.

The vision of Santa Claus, joyously sipping a Coke on Christmas Eve, has been an enduring icon of Christmas time since the early 1930s when the ads first appeared. The artist Fred Mizen premiered the first Coca Cola ad in the Saturday Evening Post. Haddon Sundblom took over as artist in 1931 with a much more enjoyable version of Santa, and continued to create the ads until 1964. Each successive year, a new portrait of Santa appeared during the holiday season, always a happy fellow with rosary cheeks, dressed in his fur trimmed red suit in the tradition of the Sundblom ads. If Santa could advertise Coke, he could also advertise everything from cars to razor blades!

The tradition of Santa Claus films reaches all the way back to the 1890s and continues to this day. Santa has been portrayed as a hero, an imposter, and a mischievous elf. Every Christmas, families gather to watch their favorite movies starring Santa Claus.

What would Christmas be without published letters to Santa in the local paper, Christmas Eve anchormen and women tracking his trek across the globe, and the Post Office who delivers the millions of hopeful letters? You’ll have plenty of luck finding your Santa here at our store. Don’t forget Rudolph, we have him too!