Thursday, December 06, 2007
This year, the good folks at AIGA New York asked if I'd like to design one of the wrapping papers for their 2007 Holiday Party. Being quite the holiday enthusiast, I agreed, and put together a snazzy wrapping paper depicting four of the many cultural iterations of Santa Claus, as shown above. Here's a little background on each:
This is the traditional depiction of Santa Claus. Like many of America's deepest and most revered traditions, he is almost completely manufactured for advertising, Coca-Cola having commissioned Haddon Sundblom1 to depict the jolly fat-man guzzling soda throughout the 1930's. Over the years, Santa expanded beyond his market-focused roots and came to represent the greater spirit of Loving (Toys) and Giving (Toys) we associate him with today. Count Chocula, however, remains selfishly tied to his "Eat Cereal or I Vill Suck Your Blood" origins.
The predecessor to Santa Claus (see how similar the two names sound? Phonetics is fun!), Sinterklaas is more or less "Saint Nicholas", and as such, is traditionally depicted in Bishop's clothing2. He originates from The Netherlands.
Hailing from Germany, where there seems to be approximately one million different iterations of Father Christmas, Pelznickel is described as an old man in a long, fur-trimmed cloak and boots, and a large, floppy hat. He is bent from carrying an enormous sack brimming with fruits and nuts, which is always full, mainly because no child in the world wants fruit and nuts for Christmas.
I suspect of all the Santas I've depicted, this one could possibly be the most off-the-mark. Perhaps because his appearance hints that the sack might actually be full of hobbits instead.
Another germanic Father Christmas figure, Knecht Ruprecht is really more of a companion for Saint Nicholas, the two being a yuletide good cop/bad cop team. While Saint Nicholas rewarded children for good behavior, Knecht Ruprecht would beat the living christmas out of the bad ones.
This type of punishing character appears in a variety of cultural traditions. These "Anti-Clauses" vary greatly in appearance and level of sadism; ranging from a rather tame Santa in dark clothing and a dark beard, to a much more sinister half-goat/half-man... thing. I myself chose to follow the route of a Santa doppleganger, in dark, furry clothing, with a slight rustic appearance3. Though initially I explored a much different path:
No — in fact — I don't. While I love history, and have quite a lot of interest in other cultures, I am by no means a professional historian or anthropologist. As such, some of my factoids above might be off-center from the reality of things (except the Count Chocula one... that's all true); so feel free to correct me in the comments should I have my facts wrong, and I will try to modify this article to reflect the truth!
Well, I do too. However, it's really only being produced for the holiday party, and isn't for sale. It is available in Wallpaper form, by which I mean "Desktop Wallpaper" — I've translated the design to a couple desktop sizes, which are now available in the Downloads section. You don't have to get one... but chances are Knecht Ruprecht will beat you senseless with a switch if you don't.
1Though, to be completely accurate, credit should also go to early twentieth-century political cartoonist, Thomas Nast.
2St. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, a town in what is now modern day Turkey.
3Knecht Ruprecht essentially being a farmhand, or servant. Chances are that fur isn't mink.