Santa Claus .. an idea whose time has come .. (in early 21st century “CE”)

Nov 20th, 2011 | By | Category: In Brief

Santa urges the reindeer on in a recent Toronto Santa Claus Parade.

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA. SUNDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2011. This afternoon will see this city’s 107th annual Santa Claus Parade. From 1905 to 1982 the event was sponsored by the now defunct Eaton’s department store. Then a consortium took over. This year’s sponsors include Coca Cola, Lego, Mattel, McDonalds, Mercedes-Benz, Pfizer, Scotiabank, Shopsy’s, Sony Pictures, Tim Hortons, the Toronto Star, and ToysRus. They are backed by “thousands of dedicated volunteers.”

Toronto Santa Claus Parade logo.

According to the current official website, Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade is “the longest running children’s Parade in the world …” But there are of course similar events in many other places. Yesterday the smaller Ontario City of Owen Sound held its “annual Kiwanis Santa Claus Parade.”  Montreal in Ontario’s sister province of Quebec also held its “61st annual Santa Claus Parade” yesterday. On Thursday, December 1, 2011 “Santa and Mrs. Claus [Will Be] Coming to Williamsport’s West End,” near a part of the State of Pennsylvania that sent the rebellious blacksmith Samuel Lount north of the Great Lakes in the earlier 19th century.

As you might expect, the history of Santa Claus himself casts a wider net. According to one source, his “earliest ancestors date back to … the … mythological characters Odin, Thor, and Saturn … But the most influential figure in the shaping of today’s generous … loving Santa Claus was a real man, St. Nicholas of Myra (now Turkey), a fourth century bishop. As a champion of children and the needy, he was legendary for his kindness and generosity.”

Salvation Army Band in 2008 Toronto Santa Claus Parade.

Closer to home, the“American version … received its inspiration … from the Dutch legend of Sinter Klaas, brought by settlers to New York …  it was the popular author Washington Irving who gave Americans their first detailed information about the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas … This Dutch-American Saint Nick achieved his fully Americanized form in 1823 in the poem … ‘The Night Before Christmas’ by writer Clement Clarke Moore. Moore included such details as the names of the reindeer … and the method by which Saint Nicholas … returns up the chimney.”

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Watching the parade ... he knows if you’ve been bad or good!

Nowadays, political and economic cynics may say that the imaginary heir of the old Turkish-Dutch St. Nicholas — “champion of children and the needy … legendary for his kindness and generosity” — is just what the (short-lived?) new age of right-wing fantasy needs.

See, eg, such recent headlines in the news as: “Blue tide of conservatism washing away last of Europe’s leftists” ; “Occupy Wall Street faces uncertain future” ; “The Mess They’re In … Ross McKibbin on what Labour can do and shouldn’t do” ; and  “Whatever Happened to the American Left?

At the same time, the original “St. Nicholas of Myra (now Turkey)” might finally want to keep some hope of a new left-wing reality alive, just around the corner (?).

Toronto Santa Claus Parade 1930 : the year after the Great Crash.

On this front, see, eg, Paul Krugman on  “Legends of the Fail” … (where Mr. Krugman explains: “now that the euro project is on the rocks, what lessons should we draw? … I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States”) ; a classic special comment by the great Keith Olbermann on “Why Occupy Wall Street needs Michael Bloomberg” ; Canadian labour leader Fred Wilson on “Labour’s coming showdown with Harper” (well … maybe) ; and the latest local news re “Only hardcore protesters remain at Occupy Victoria … [BUT] Toronto marches”!

Times are changing : already there are those who think Santa doesn’t use reindeer any more, and that a feminist Mrs. Claus helps him out (or even tells him what to do?)

Speaking of Christmas presents and Keith Olbermann in the same breath also reminds me that a good present for we frostbitten northern North Americans would be access to the Current cable channel, on which Mr. Olbermann’s current edition of Countdown etc now appears.

For a quick update on the story here, see: “Gore-founded Current TV network coming to Canada” ; “Current TV’s Plans to Enter Canada on Hold” ; “Is there any hope of Current TV coming to Canada?” ; and “as of June 2011 there are no plans to bring Current TV to Canada …. last modified on 10 November 2011.”

And then some say that Occupy Toronto will be participating in this year’s Santa Claus Parade, whether you like it or not!

At the bottom of everything, of course, the real problem — even with the euro, sovereign debt, and all that — is that the age of “CE” (“Common or Current Era” — just a juvenile euphemism for the older “Christian Era,” or “AD” which stood for the same thing in the now long dead language of Latin) is coming to an end. At some point some irrepressible bah-humbug old guy in North America is going to discover that Santa Claus is not a cultural universal. He may even fall as China and India rise? So … ask for as many presents as you can think of while the good times still roll, sort of, for a little while longer yet. Of course nothing like Santa Claus really exists in our (or any other?) kind of society. But wouldn’t it be nice if it did?

Toronto Santa Claus Parade Colouring Book, 1960.

(And btw, on cp24 TV this morning, here in Toronto, Canada, a perhaps somewhat insensitive interviewer asked, in a row, three children of obvious East Asian descent, waiting for the parade to start, what they wanted from Santa this year. With their sceptical mother looking on, they all said, loud and clear, “Nothing.” Nowadays the parade may be as popular as ever, or more, but  it increasingly has different meanings for different “children of all ages.”)

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