The beloved holiday classic A Christmas Story shows young Ralphie dismayed to discover that Little Orphan Annie was just an Ovaltine advertisement. He screams “a crummy advertisement” and throws his prize with disgust. We won’t tell you that Santa Claus was a marketing trick to sell products, but we will. Santa Claus’ true story is fascinating. There are contributions from all over the globe and roots that date back hundreds of centuries before soft drinks were invented. The story of Santa’s first visit to shopping malls and department shops around the globe may not be as noble.
Christmas Shopping Begins
Although Christmas is a holiday that has been celebrated in America for centuries, it was different from the one we know today. Actually, Christmas was outlawed between 1659 and 1681 for its propensity to promote rambunctious parties and anti-Puritan views. In fact, Christmas was not established until the 1800s when it became strongly associated with family. Washington Irving published a series about Christmas that was centered on family. An influx of European immigrants also brought their holiday traditions to the table. This more balanced approach to the holidays led to a rise in gift-giving and, consequently, holiday shopping. The end of the year was a time when store owners were eager to get rid of unwanted products. This made it easy for them to sell Christmas essentials. They already had the ideal mascot.
The anglicized “Santa Claus”, first appeared in print in the late 1700s. A visit from St. Nicholas was published in 1823. Twas the Night Before Christmas is a better name for the poem. It is widely recognized as one of the main blueprints of modern Father’s Christmas. His image began to be used in advertisements across the country as Santa became the national holiday icon. In 1820, a jewelry advertisement featured Santa Claus. By the 1840s, Santa statues were being displayed in every store window. It was time to finally get the real deal after images of Santa Claus flooding into retail stores each holiday season.
The First Mall Santa
The origin of mall Santa is a subject of much debate, just like St. Nicholas’ origins. Many of these Christmas traditions were established over two centuries ago. Unfortunately, there was little information available and the data that was was was not kept well. Which store received Santa Claus’ first visit? It all depends on who you ask.
Santa Drops In On Philly
Parkinson owned a bakery and dry goods shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He claimed to have hired his neighbor Kris Kringle as he worked at the store from December 1841. He was carrying a large bag of toys over his shoulders as the hired Santa Claus climbed down the shop’s chimney. The words “My friend’s shop in Parkinson’s” were engraved on the bag. Santa waved from the roof and invited people to come in to buy last-minute Christmas gifts. There isn’t much information about Santa’s visit to Philly in 1841. The only thing that’s available is this newspaper clipping from the book Christmas In Pennsylvania by Alfred Shoemaker.
Some claim Santa got stuck in the chimney while he was going down. This could explain why the publicity stunt wasn’t repeated or why Santa didn’t meet any children. It is impossible to deny the magical feeling these children felt when they saw Santa for the first time. This was far from the intimate, lap-sitting Santa visits that are so well-known. One store has made traditional Santa visits an art form.