Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus!


Frank Riga, PhD, emeritus professor of English, has been researching the origins of Santa Claus for decades. Since it “Tis the Season,” we thought our readers would enjoy the following excerpt from Dr. Riga’s many writings on the subject.

Not the Best Role Model

His coming makes the children sick with anticipation and when he arrives in the dead of night, he spoils them rotten with candy and toys. If that’s not enough, he’s overweight and smokes. How can such an obvious candidate for a coronary be any kind of role model? But then, what kid has ever wanted to grow up to be Santa Claus?

Santa Claus

He’s a grand figure of a man, conspicuous both in consumption and in distribution. He’s a one-man economic upturn who lives in the land of the midnight sun, where the daytime is 24 hours long. As one wag from the local business school put it, he had to take up residence there because his production schedule required more than a regulation day to meet demand. His stock, however, doesn’t appear in Standard and Poor’s, and even though he is always in red, no one, not even the elves, has ever attempted a leverage buy-out. He’s solvent.

Santa Claus came into history as a saint, but though his origins were in Turkey, he’s better known for his association with the Christmas turkey, an American bird. He’s big in size and soul, and it took Americans to celebrate him properly. Or, more precisely, it took New Yorkers to create the verbal and graphic images by which he is recognized and known throughout the world. As with so many Americans, much of the Old World went into his making, and yet he manifests that expansive optimism and generosity that may not be the exclusive property of Americans but that has not been stinted in the American character. Representing a tradition of open-handed munificence, he is a fitting image for Christmas in America.

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