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December, 2004 - Nr. 13


High-Tech Tree
The Editor
Season's Greetings
Reason for the Season
Frohe Festtage
Verschneites Land
Alle Jahre wieder...
Toronto Connection
Zurich Connection
From The Locker Room
Ottawa Valley Christmas
K-W & Beyond
Opera York Expands...
K-W Christkindl Market
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Santa House Calls
Bach's Manuscripts Disappear
Hospital in Germany

Santa Claus

  TWIG - Thomas Nast was a young German artist who created a Christmas illustration which has shaped Americans’ view of Santa Claus to this day. In December 1862, Nast produced his first Santa drawings for "Harper's" magazine as a combination of holiday cheer and somber reality. The figure Nast drew was radically different from the way Santa had been thought of by the public up until this point. At the time, Santa was often portrayed as short and lean, with a sharp clean-shaven face, looking more like an evil demon than a benevolent gift-giver.

Nast felt that Santa was someone who should be beloved by children - not feared. So he created the jolly old elf of his imagination. He drew a sturdy Santa, wearing a wreath of holly, smoking a long clay pipe. The Santa envisioned by Nast was almost always smiling, surrounded by a whole herd of reindeer, pulling his sleigh. Before that, just one reindeer had usually been shown. The artist also popularized the tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace for Santa to leave gifts in. In 1866, Nast produced 20 Christmas scenes for Harper's, giving Santa some of the attributes that have been associated with him since. Among these, a record book with the names of good and bad children, a telescope for checking up on the behavior of the children, and a workshop, where he was shown making toys. The drawings were in black-and-white, but when Nast was asked to reproduce them for a colorful book, he made Santa's suit bright red. From this day forward, Santa Claus has always worn a red suit.

Thomas Nast was born in Landau, Germany in 1840. His father, a musician, decided to take his family to the United States and Nast was raised in New York. At the age of 15, he had his first drawing published by a national magazine. In 1855, Nast started working for "Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper". Nast was a strong opponent of slavery, and during the Civil War he produced patriotic drawings urging people to help fight the Confederate rebels. Abraham Lincoln once called him the Union's best recruiter. Nast stopped cartooning regularly for "Harper's Weekly" in 1886 and lost most of his savings in a Wall Street swindle the previous year. He died of yellow fever in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where President Theodore Roosevelt had appointed him consul in 1902.

Thomas Nast brought legitimacy to his art form of political cartooning and was a master at this craft. Each of his approximate 2200 cartoons for "Harper's Weekly" expressed the artists views on every national issue of political and social importance. They were illustrated chronicles of American history. It is through his depiction of Santa Claus, however, that the work of Thomas Nast remains timeless.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


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