Posted by Cassondra Murray Dec 12 2013, 1:42 am in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, Christmas, Christmas traditions, Decorations, Doll makers, Santa
When I was a little girl, Santa was a fat guy in a screaming red and white suit, with a white beard and a list.
That’s how he always looked.
Sometimes his face looked mean—a little on the evil side depending on the depiction– but most of the “Santa” images were of a jolly, happy, kind-looking Santa, much like this one on the left.
Doesn’t he look like a nice guy, laying his finger aside of his nose, about to nod his head and ascend through the narrow chimney?
Back then, Santa’s face was pretty much the only thing that varied. Some of them looked absolutely evil. This guy on the right isn’t too bad, but doesn’t he look like he has some mischief afoot?
As a child, even into my teens, I didn’t realize that the “fat guy in a bright red suit” imagery was fairly new, or that it had evolved over a long, long time, and that Santa did not always look exactly like this.
But I never did much like that suit.
I suppose, even as a little girl, the beginnings of the Martha Stewart Mini-Me that I would eventually become…well…they were already in place. I swear I don’t know where I got these tendencies.
I loved Santa back then. But even as a little girl, when I looked at Christmas decorations in the stores, I just wasn’t into that red suit.
Yes, I was an odd child. I won’t deny it.
As I grew older, I’d see those Santa dolls –you know the ones that are two or three feet tall, with fabric outfits–meant to be put out as decorations either inside or outside, but I never wanted one for my house. They just didn’t appeal.
Then it happened.
A few years after I was married, I was walking by the window of an upscale department store when I saw a Santa that made me stop and stare.
He was not in a bright red suit. He was in a robe. Not screaming red. It was deep dark burgundy. The fur trim was off white and looked old.
Now I know he’d be called an “Old World Santa,” but those weren’t around back then–or at least I hadn’t seen one. This one on the right is not him, but he has the same look. This is an Old World Santa from Linens ‘n Things.
After that, I started noticing more and more versions of Santa that were not the clownish guy I grew up with, but were based more on Father Christmas—the old world version of Santa.
Not long after that, I was in another store and I saw “Woodland Santa” with leaves and pine cones in a wreath around his head, and a long robe of what looked like fur-trimmed burlap. He had on snowshoes and there was a deer standing at his side. In one hand was a staff made of a tree branch, and in the other, a lantern. He had a rough knapsack over his shoulder. His cheeks were still rosy and his beard long and white.
It was just my style. I love primitive antiques, log cabins, barns and woods. I had found my Santa.
I was in school at the time, and we were flat broke, so I couldn’t afford him. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one like him since, but I’d had my “Santa Awakening.” This one on the left is similar. It’s another version of “Woodland Santa”
Back then, all of these were “designer” Santas and were WAY too spendy for my budget, but I could still stare at them and imagine how they’d look in my future house, standing on my future hearth beside the future fireplace.
Flash forward a few years. Really cool Santas have come down in price, and now they’re available everywhere, as common as Bright-red-suit Santa.
Here’s another version of “Woodland Santa” on the right. This one is available at Costco. Doesn’t he look rugged and ready for some serious outdoor trekking? Even if his sleigh breaks down, ala the movie “Elf,” this Santa could still get where he needed to go.
Now, thanks to the internet and shops like Etsy, there are doll makers who specialize in a zillion different versions of Santa Claus, like this Father Christmas in a fur cloak on the left. You can see the rest of him if you click on the link. He’s amazing.
Looking around the web, I found one particular doll maker whose work I absolutely love, and she was kind enough to give me permission to share her Santas with you here on the blog.
Her name is Bona Lowery, and her Santas are stunning, one-of-a kind pieces of art, but many of them cost far less than you’d think for such beautiful work.
If you click on the links, you can see the detail in these Santas in the bigger pictures.
This is her Cabin Santa on the left. Cabin Santa is holding a little log cabin, and I love his fur-trimmed robe.
On her site, Santa Creations by Bona, she has a snippet about the history of Santa Claus.
Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas and Sinterklaas, merged with the British character Father Christmas to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus.
Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a jolly, well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe.
Okay so Santa was fat back then, and Santa is still fat. Even most old-world Santas and Father Christmas figures have a belly. Every one of us feels the pressures of current fashion, but not Santa. Santa is, thus far, immune.
I understand from my friends who write historical romance that centuries ago, having a little fat on you was a sign that you were well-off. You could afford to eat all you wanted, regularly, and you could eat yummy stuff that most people couldn’t get. The common folk were lucky to eat at all, and worked off what they did eat. So, not only was Santa doing okay for himself, he was also generous, especially toward kids.
Here are more Santas by Ms. Lowery. That’s Fishing Santa on the right, complete with his tackle.
On the left is Silver Wreath Santa–less rustic, and more in keeping with the sparkle of the season.
Nowadays there are Santas with sheep, Santas with donkeys, and Santas with kittens.
I’ve seen Santas in sleighs and Santas wearing snowshoes pulling their own sleds, Santas with huskies instead of reindeer pulling the sleigh, and one Santa I saw was riding a polar bear.
None of them were wearing the bright red suit. I’ve even seen a “Green Man Santa”–the pagan version of Santa– with long gray beard, still carrying the traditional gifts, but wearing a wreath of leaves and sporting antlers on his head.
Bandita Kate is like me–she’s a wine lover, and she’ll love this next Santa. It’s a wine rack, and Santa is enjoying a glass of his favorite.
The photo on the right is of the Karen Didion Originals Crakewood Santa Claus 5-bottle Tabletop Wine Rack.
I had not heard of Karen Didion, but she was all over the internet when I went looking for Santas, and I absolutely loved everything I saw of hers. I think she’s brilliant. I found her Santas at Wayfair.com.
If you click on the link and look at the photos, you see the Santa wine rack from all directions. Plus, the wire barrel holds wine corks. Did I already say this Santa designer is brilliant?
Yes, she is.
Here’s another of her Santas on the left. Victorian Santa Claus.
Awesome Santas are not just from fancy designers. They’re everywhere. The Father Christmas Dolls on the right were from QVC.
The one below, on the left, is from Lowe’s. I *think* those are snowshoes strapped on his back, though I’m not certain.
Santa is stylin’.
He’s no longer just a guy in a red suit.
I had a bit of an epiphany while I was writing this post and searching for awesome Santas. If I fall in love with a Santa decoration, it’s probably because it looks nothing like the traditional guy in a red suit, and everything like a Wizard.
It seems the more Wizard-like the Santa is, the more I love it.
I never thought of Santa as a Wizard before, but he does have the pointy, floppy hat. And how else does he get up and down the chimney–and fly all over the world in one night?
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
What sort of Santa appeals to you?
Did you grow up with the “Bright red-and-white suit” Santa?
If you celebrate another holiday, what are your decorations like? Do you like bright and sparkly? Or do you prefer colors and designs that are more subdued for a holiday?
If you decorate for Christmas, do you choose Screaming-red-suit Santa?
Or do you like the old-world Santas better?
Do you have any Santa figurines or dolls like the ones in the photos?
What says “Santa” to you?
It’s ALMOST HERE! Tomorrow is Day 1 of our annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas! Prizes every day, plus extra goodies for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Be sure to stop by the blog each day between now and Christmas and leave a comment to be in the drawings.