If I had been an investment counsellor in the 50's, I'd have told you to put your money in a manufacturer of Santa Claus suits......because if advertising is an accurate reflection of a society's cultural habits (and let's face it, we know this to be true) then every male old enough to father a child was jamming his legs into fur-trimmed pantaloons and stuffing a pillow down the front of his pants at the first sound of bells jingling. How did costume shops keep up with the demand?
Personally, I'm not sorry to see this time-honoured tradition go the way of the dodo. My dad never wore a Santa suit. Well, he's Chinese and that would have just looked... odd. And I never had the urge to dress up like Mr. Claus - thank god Wendy never forced me to give it a try!
Call me a grinch but something about all these mock Santas skulking around the house in the dead of night strikes me as kinda creepy. Playing the role of Santa in any meaningful way takes a lot of stage presence. That doesn't come naturally to many guys! I can still remember "Santa" showing up at our house when I was a tyke and knowing right away that it was one of my mom's co-workers. Sure, his intentions were good but in my childish mind I was thinking, "I better play along because this grown-up could be drunk or crazy - or both!"
The truth is, all but the youngest of Cindy-Lou Whos can see right through that fake beard. Your voice or your cologne or your body language always gives you away. Kids notice that stuff, believe me. The imagination of a child is a powerful force and the Santa of our dreams is so much better than any "Santa's Helper" you'll ever sit on the knee of - at the mall or on your livingroom sofa.
Here's to keeping a little mystery in the Santa experience. Santa should never be seen - only heard.
These images can be seen at full size in my Retro Christmas Flickr set