An article from The News Leader is more interesting than the weak lede would have you believe. Offering a survey of Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus drawings, it also tacks on an anecdote about Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christmas poem. A nice little read for Christmas Day.
Nast created a character for Harper’s based on a fourth century bishop in Asia Minor named St. Nicholas, who, over time, had become known to the Western world as the patron saint of children and a symbol of Christmas. But until 1862, St. Nick was more often than not portrayed as tall and cadaverous. One artist in 1845 even made him look like a leprechaun with a police record.
Nast took the character, fattened him up and dressed him in a gaudy red suit with white trim. A flowing white beard and bulging bag of toys completed the picture.
I’ve been listening for years to Johnny Cash performing the full poem, without realising it had a Civil War origin!