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The Commercialization of Santa Has Begun

The first real department store Santa Claus won't arrive until the 1890s, but this year, Philadelphia store owner, J. W. Parkinson, hires a fellow to play Kris Kringle climbing the store's chimney as an advertising gimmick. At this time, Kris Kringle and Santa Claus are not considered the same person, but most children realize that someone special is secretly passing out gifts on Christmas Eve! The image of Santa has been firming up in the USA since the 1823 publication of the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas", but it is going to take a long time before the Santa Claus tradition unifies into the image of a jolly old elf in a red suit looking suspiciously like the comedian, Tim Allen, and sounding like Buzz Lightyear. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Just so you know, there is another Christmas tradition where a fellow whips unworthy children and leaves them coal. You will see "Father Whipper" occasionally pop up in parades looking like a homeless guy. Oh... wait... that IS a homeless guy! Currently, the Netherlands is experiencing a problem with another of Santa's helpers, Black Pete. I'll bet you can guess what the problem is. Early in December, Saint Nickolas and his friendly helper, Black Pete, arrive and hand out gifts to the Dutch children. It's tradition! The Dutch generally like this tradition and see nothing racist about it, but their neighbors are becoming uncomfortable with the image of a white guy in blackface parading around in an Afro wig like a clown. (Professionally speaking, Black Pete does fit the definition of a real clown.) And in traditional political fashion, when conservatives do something like this it is considered the worst kind of racial prejudice, but when Dutch liberals do it, it's tradition! The tradition stumbles on. [3] [4] [5] [6]

The Whigs Win the Presidency... for One Month

The Whigs are a political party dedicated to the proposition that Andrew Jackson is crazy and the Democratic Party is too dangerous for words. The Presidency of William Harrison is a milestone win for the Whigs. Unfortunately, during the campaign Harrison's age and stamina were called into question, so he ran with the slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," to remind the delegates that he was the hero at the Battle of Tippecanoe. On Inaugural Day, it is wet and cold. Harrison rides his horse to the ceremony to demonstrate his health and vitality. As he takes the podium, he makes the longest speech in Presidential history: 2 hours. He outlines the Whig political platform is mind-numbing detail. Afterward there are the dinners and parties. He is having trouble breathing. It's pneumonia. Without antibiotics, your body either fights it off or you die. One month later, the hope of the Whig Party is dead. John Tyler is President, but the Whigs never seriously considered what a Tyler Presidency would mean. He was chosen to balance the ticket. How good a Whig is Tyler, anyway? It turns out... not so good. He looks like a Democrat in Republican clothing... uh... I mean Whig clothing! He is a Virgina man, he owns slaves and he wants to annex Texas as a slave state! Is he insane? This is going to be a bumpy ride. [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
A John Tyler Presidency was the modern equivalent of replacing Ronald Reagan with George H. W. Bush. They are from the same political Party, but they are much different. There were fears that a second term for Ronald Reagan would leave the Republican Party in the lurch if he should die in office. When he ran for reelection, his opponent, Walter Mondale, piously declared that he would not make age an issue in his campaign ... thus making age an issue in his campaign. Reagan replied solemnly, "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Even Mondale laughed and with that one line, President Ronald Reagan won his second term. There are still some questions about whether that second term was a good idea. Reagan was getting too old for the job. As I watch Hillary Clinton making her campaign speech I can see her husband, former President Bill Clinton, sleeping through it. I can't blame him. It must be the 100th time he has heard the speech, but then again.... does he still has all of his faculties? I think not. [8] [9]

In Other News

  • The Brook Farm utopia is founded. Transcendentalism has found its center in Massachusetts of all places. [10] [11]
  • Groundhog Day makes it to America. Although the German tradition of "a large squirrel predicting the weather" has been around for many years, this is the first mention of it in the USA. [12] [13]
  • Britain claims sovereignty over Hong Kong. Except for a brief period during World War 2, the British will maintain jurisdiction over Hong Kong until 1997. (Shhhh! The UK has been selling opium to the Chinese! Not the other way around.) [14]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1841, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. A Rabbi Defends "Merry Christmas" 12/19/14 (PODCAST). The Blaze Radio Network (December 19, 2014). Retrieved on December 21, 2014. “The first department store Santa. When was it? [...] 1841. A store in Philadelphia brought Kris Kringle in. A neighbor of the store owner played Kris Kringle. He went into the shop on December 18th to lure in holiday shoppers. Santa arrived via the chimney with a sack that said 'My friends shop at Parkinson's' on the side.”
  2. Up on Santa’s Lap. yuleblog.us (2016). Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “While James Edgar is credited with popularizing the department store Santa, there is some evidence that he wasn’t necessarily the first. James Woods Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant and restaurateur is said to have hired a 'Criscringle' to climb down the chimney of his store in 1841. One could argue that this predates Edgar’s Santa, but it certainly didn’t catch on the way it would nearly 50 years later in Brockton.”
  3. "Dutch holiday season sees new 'Black Pete' controversy", USA Today, December 3, 2014. Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “Now, there are signs of a gradual shift away from Black Pete. The character is less prominent on the shelves of major Dutch stores, which have removed some of the more racially tinged features of his appearance, such as thick red lips and chunky gold earrings.” 
  4. A Christmas controversy: the history of Zwarte Piet. History Extra (December 15, 2015). Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “While recognisably the model for Father Christmas, Santa here is still a saint and a churchman. He wears a long red robe and a golden mitre, and carries a bishop's crook. He is kindly, sober and very much the visiting dignitary. His sidekick Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), however, is a rascal and a prankster who throws sweets in the air. There's also the dark possibility that he could put you in his sack and take you away if you've been naughty. But that's not the reason for the double take.”
  5. Santa's Black-Faced Helpers Are Under Fire In The Netherlands : Code Switch. NPR (2014). Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “Heijne says the Dutch, because of globalization, are unwilling to give up what they feel is one of their local traditions. 'So there's a kind of tension, and people are saying, 'No, it's not racist, and we are not racist, so leave us alone.'”
  6. Alex Shrugged notes: I thank the No Agenda Show podcast for tipping me off to the controversy over Black Pete in the Netherlands. And yes. I was once a professional clown, and I still make balloon animals for the neighborhood kids.
  7. John Tyler - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “The vice presidential nomination was considered of little moment; no president had failed to complete his elected term. Not much attention was given to the choice, and the specifics of how Tyler came to gain it are unclear. Chitwood pointed out that Tyler was a logical candidate: as a Southern slaveowner, he both balanced the ticket and assuaged the fears of Southerners who felt Harrison might have abolitionist leanings.”
  8. Ronald Reagan debate inexperience and youth of his opponent - YouTube. youtube.com (2016). Retrieved on 3 August 2016.
  9. Ronald Reagan - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “Reagan's opponent in the 1984 presidential election was former Vice President Walter Mondale. With questions about Reagan's age, and a weak performance in the first presidential debate, his ability to perform the duties of president for another term was questioned. His apparent confused and forgetful behavior was evident to his supporters; they had previously known him clever and witty. Rumors began to circulate that he had Alzheimer's disease. Reagan rebounded in the second debate, and confronted questions about his age, quipping, 'I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience,' which generated applause and laughter, even from Mondale himself.”
  10. Paul's Brook Farm Web Site - About This Web Site (2016). Archived from the original on January 24, 2001. Retrieved on 19 July 2016. “On April 1, 1841, on a farm in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, a few miles outside of Boston, the Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education was founded. The motivating force behind this endeavor was George Ripley, scholar, Unitarian minister, Transcendentalist, and religious innovator.”
  11. Brook Farm - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 19 July 2016. “Brook Farm, also called the Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education[4] or the Brook Farm Association for Industry and Education, was a utopian experiment in communal living in the United States in the 1840s. It was founded by former Unitarian minister George Ripley and his wife Sophia Ripley at the Ellis Farm in West Roxbury, Massachusetts (9 miles outside of downtown Boston) in 1841 and was inspired in part by the ideals of Transcendentalism, a religious and cultural philosophy based in New England.”
  12. Large Squirrel Predicting the Weather - Groundhog Day (1993 movie). YouTube.com (2016). Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “Puxatawny Phil at work!”
  13. Groundhog Day - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 August 2016. “The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, by Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris: 'Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.'”
  14. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 408-409. 

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