By Emma Teitel - Monday, December 17, 2012 - 0 Comments
Emma Teitel on why Father Christmas is the last true disciplinarian
Every year, millions of children are told not to talk to strangers, and every year they do. In fact, not only do they talk to strangers; at the behest of their parents, they sit in a stranger’s lap. This stranger goes by the name of Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, or Sinterklaas. He could be the Antichrist, but between November and January, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at your local shopping mall, he is God’s gift to children everywhere. He is also, as the story we tell them goes, the purveyor of coal, or last year’s iPhone, so you better watch out—that is, sit in his lap and appear at ease while he mumbles platitudes into his glued-on beard. There are those, however, who aren’t comfortable with this arrangement. We see them each year: the kids who are dragged kicking and screaming onto the knees of St. Nick. It’s a condition our society has dubbed “Santaphobia” and, judging by recent events, it’s probably getting worse.
At the Lowe’s Christmas Market in Toronto this month, one Santa Claus decided to critique a three-year-old boy’s choice of clothing. According to the boy’s mother, Santa looked at her son and said, “Oh you’re wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs toque. You shouldn’t be wearing that; they suck.” (The boy went home crying.) At a shopping mall in Portland, Maine, recently, a Santa Claus who was described as “weird” and “grumpy” refused to promise a little girl the doll she wanted. (He promised her a football instead.)
Indignant parents took to Facebook and got the bad Santas fired. One thing they probably didn’t do, though, was tell the truth. The mother of the crestfallen Maple Leafs fan told her son that Santa was having a bad day. “I can’t really tell him Santa’s a jerk,” she said. Which means she can’t really tell him that Santa’s not Santa. Apparently, a real Santa Claus who hurts your feelings, or smells like rubbing alcohol, is better than no Santa at all.
By Brian Bethune - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
This slim and beautifully illustrated tome is less a history—Brunner cheerfully admits to his subject’s murky origins—than an ode to the Christmas tree’s astonishing and continuing evolution. It’s one thing to find sparse references to the tree within the records of medieval German guilds—the Freiburg Fraternity of Baker’s Apprentices seems to have had one up, complete with apples, gingerbread and tinsel, as early as 1419—and quite another to see an unmistakable Christmas tree in a Japanese print from 1920. In it, a traditionally dressed family eats Japanese food in front of this weird-but-cool foreign thing, hung with origami, lights and paper fans.
It’s hardly surprising that the Christmas tree’s more ancient roots grew among the German guilds—close-knit associations that had money, common indoor space, traditions of communal celebrations and (crucially) nearby coniferous forests. It was a much slower, and occasionally resisted, process to bring it into private houses. First, those homes had to get bigger, and the German upper classes obliged in the 18th century with houses containing purpose-built rooms, like parlours, suitable for family trees. The less well-off responded by hanging their trees, sometimes upside down, from the ceilings of their smaller dwellings, a practice still followed in some German churches. Continue…