Compiled by Bill Hillman

To All A Goodnight: Jim DalyChristmas Dream: Kim Jacobs

A Brief History of Christmas and
Winter Solstice Celebrations

The history of Christmas dates back over 4000 years. Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires the yule log, the giving of gifts, carnivals(parades) with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, the holiday feasts, and the church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians.

Many of these traditions began with the Mesopotamian celebration of New Years. The Mesopotamians believed in many gods, and as their chief god - Marduk. Each year as winter arrived it was believed that Marduk would do battle with the monsters of chaos. To assist Marduk in his struggle the Mesopotamians held a festival for the New Year. This was Zagmuk, the New Year's festival that lasted for 12 days.

The Mesopotamian king would return to the temple of Marduk and swear his faithfulness to the god. The traditions called for the king to die at the end of the year and to return with Marduk to battle at his side.

To spare their king, the Mesopotamians used the idea of a "mock" king. A criminal was chosen and dressed in royal clothes. He was given all the respect and privileges of a real king. At the end of the celebration the "mock" king was stripped of the royal clothes and slain, sparing the life of the real king.

The Persians and the Babylonians celebrated a similar festival called the Sacaea. Part of that celebration included the exchanging of places, the slaves would become the masters and the masters were to obey.

Early Europeans believed in evil spirits, witches, ghosts and trolls. As the Winter Solstice approached, with its long cold nights and short days, many people feared the sun would not return. Special rituals and celebrations were held to welcome back the sun.

In Scandinavia during the winter months the sun would disappear for many days. After thirty-five days scouts would be sent to the mountain tops to look for the return of the sun. When the first light was seen the scouts would return with the good news. A great festival would be held, called the Yuletide, and a special feast would be served around a fire burning with the Yule log. Great bonfires would also be lit to celebrate the return of the sun. In some areas people would tie apples to branches of trees to remind themselves that spring and summer would return.

The ancient Greeks held a festival similar to that of the Zagmuk/Sacaea festivals to assist their god Kronos who would battle the god Zeus and his Titans.

The Romans celebrated their god Saturn. Their festival was called Saturnalia which began the middle of December and ended January 1st. With cries of "Jo Saturnalia!" the celebration would include masquerades in the streets, big festive meals, visiting friends, and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae (lucky fruits). The Romans decked their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles. Again the masters and slaves would exchange places.

"Jo Saturnalia!" was a fun and festive time for the Romans, but the Christians though it an abomination to honor the pagan god. The early Christians wanted to keep the birthday of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, not one of cheer and merriment as was the pagan Saturnalia.

But as Christianity spread they were alarmed by the continuing celebration of pagan customs and Saturnalia among their converts. At first the Church forbid this kind of celebration. But it was to no avail. Eventually it was decided that the celebration would be tamed and made into a celebration fit for the Christian Son of God.

Some legends claim that the Christian "Christmas" celebration was invented to compete against the pagan celebrations of December. The 25th was not only sacred to the Romans but also the Persians whose religion Mithraism was one of Christianity's main rivals at that time. The Church eventually was successful in taking the merriment, lights, and gifts from the Saturanilia festival and bringing them to the celebration of Christmas.

The exact day of the Christ child's birth has never been pinpointed. Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. In 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ Child celebrated as a solemn feast. In 350 AD another Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas.

Christmas Trivia

                                  The common abbreviation for Christmas to Xmas is derived from the Greek
                                  alphabet. X is letter Chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name in the Greek

                                  Oliver Cromwell, in England banned Christmas Carols between 1649 and
                                  1660. Cromwell thought that Christmas should be a very solemn day so he
                                  banned carols and parties. The only celebration was by a sermon and a
                                  prayer service.

                                  In 1643, the British Parliament officially abolishes the celebration of

                                  The Puritans in America tried to make Thanksgiving Day the most important
                                  annual festival instead of Christmas.

                                  Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was
                                  told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would
                                  not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and
                                  could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that
                                  could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas.
                                  Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for
                                  the first time.

                                  St Francis of Assisi introduced Christmas Carols to formal church services.

                                  Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public
                                  Church services should be held to celebrate "The Nativity of our Lord and
                                  Saviour." In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25
                                  December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

                                  26 December was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is more
                                  commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because
                                  money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive
                                  season. This money was then distributed during to the poor and needy after

                                  Melbourne, Australia has a sporting Boxing Day tradition. The Melbourne
                                  Cricket Ground hosts a Cricket test match. Sometimes this attracts 90, 000
                                  spectators. Cricket is Australia's premier Summer sport.

                                  The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531

                                  In 1836, Alabama is the first state in the USA to declare Christmas a legal

                                  In 1843, the first Christmas card was printed in England for Sir Henry Cole. He
                                  was busy man who wanted to save time in his own Christmas letters, but was
                                  also interested in encouraging the expansion of the postal system. 1000
                                  copies of the card were sold at one shilling each. It was not until the 1860s
                                  that the production of cards accelerated, with cheaper printing methods. Then
                                  in 1870, the Post Office introduced a half penny stamp for sending cards.

                                  In 1856, President Franklin Pierce decorates the first White House Christmas

                                  In 1907, Oklahoma became the last USA state to declare Christmas a legal

                                  At midnight on Christmas Eve 1914 firing from the German trenches suddenly
                                  stopped. A German brass band began playing Christmas carols. Early,
                                  Christmas morning, the German soldiers came out of their trenches,
                                  approaching the allied lines, calling "Merry Christmas". At first the allied
                                  soldiers thought it was a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and
                                  shook hands with the German soldiers. The truce lasted a few days, and the
                                  men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, sang carols and
                                  songs. They even played a game of Soccer.

                                  In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in

                                  In 1974, the Australian city of Darwin is devastated late on Christmas Eve and
                                  in the early hours of the morning by Cyclone Tracy.

In 1834, Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert brought the first Christmas
tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal family.

6 December is St Nicholas's Day - the first of the gift giving days, especially in
Holland and Belgium.

Some priests in Australia advise you to say "Happy Christmas", not "Merry Christmas", because Merry has connotations of getting drunk - which brings its own problems. One should say "Happy" instead.

The actual gift givers are different in various countries:

                                  Spain and South America: The Three Kings
                                  Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)
                                  England: Father Christmas
                                  France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)
                                  Russia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure)
                                  Other parts it is Grandfather Frost.
                                  Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus)
                                  She is a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.
                                  Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse
                                  Holland: St Nicholas.

                                  Every year since 1947 the people in Oslo have given a Christmas tree to the
                                  city of Westminster. The gift is an expression of goodwill and gratitude for
                                  Britain's help to Norway in the 1939-1945 war.

                                  The first American Christmas carol was written in 1649 by a minister named
                                  John de Brebeur and is called "Jesus is Born".

                                  Mexicans call the poinsettia "Flower of the Holy Night" - the Holy Night is the
                                  Mexican way of saying "Christmas Eve".

                                  Tom Smith who owned a sweet shop in London was the originator of the
                                  cracker. In the 1840s Tom found that people like sugar almonds, but while he
                                  was in France he discovered a variety of sweets wrapped up in a twist of
                                  paper. These bonbons were popular, so Tom decided to copy them. When
                                  Tom noticed that young men were buying them to give to their sweethearts he
                                  began to place "love mottoes" on small slips of paper inside the sweet

                                  In 1846 Tom's thoughts turned towards Christmas - instead of sweets he
                                  thought he would place toys and novelties inside the twisted wrapping. He
                                  experimented with this and the idea of producing a wrapping that could be
                                  pulled apart - just like the cracker as we know it today.

                                  The word carol is derived from the old French word caroller which derives from
                                  the Latin choraula. This itself was derived from the Greek choraules.

                      Births on 25 December:

                                  W C Field (1946)
                                  Alice Cooper (1945)
                                  Princess Alexandra (1936)
                                  Paul Borget (1935)
                                  Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889)

                         Deaths on 25 December:

                                  Conrad Hilton (1979)
                                  Humphrey Bogart (1957)
                                  Dorothy Wordsworth (1855)
                                  Sir Isaac Newton (1727)

                                  The biggest selling Christmas single of all time is Bing Crosby's White

                                  In Switzerland during the Reformation, al instrumental and choral music was
                                  banned from churches. In Germany, disapproval of carols resulted in some
                                  being converted into hymns.

                                  Tinsel on the Christmas Tree is attributed to a woman whose husband died.
                                  She was left to bring up a large family of children herself. She was left to do
                                  everything working so hard and she was determined to make a happy time for
                                  them at Christmas. She prepared a Christmas Tree to surprise them on
                                  Christmas Day. Unfortunately spiders visited the tree, and crawled from
                                  branch to branch, making webs all over it. The Christ Child saw the tree and
                                  knew she would be devastated to find this on Christmas morning. He changed
                                  the spiders' webs to shining silver.

                                 The first church the Dutch built in New York City was named in St Nicholas'
                                  honour -St Nicholas Church.

                                  Many Christmas customs are carryovers from pre-Christian celebrations.
                                  Hanging gifts on trees is supposed to stem from tree worship of the Druids,
                                  and the belief that the tree was the giver of all good things. The Druids are
                                  also partly responsible for the use of mistletoe at Christmastime. They
                                  regarded the mistletoe as sacred, made certain that it never touched the
                                  ground, and dedicated it to the Goddess of Love, which explains the kissing
                                  that goes on under it. Originally, when a boy kissed a girl, he plucked a berry
                                  from the cluster and presented it to her. When the berries were gone, so were
                                  the kisses.

                                  In Christmas tree decorations, angels are usually portrayed as wimpy blondes
                                  in girl's blouses and sandals. In the Bible, however, angels are muscular
                                  bullies who frequently goad humans into fistfights. Life isn't all harps and
                                  heavenly choirs for angels; there's a strict career structure. The only angels
                                  mentioned by name in the Bible are archangels, the eighth-ranking order of

                                  Visitors to Bethlehem rarely exceed a few thousand at Christmas. In 1995,
                                  there were rowdy celebrations of the first Christmas in a Palestinian-controlled
                                  Bethlehem. The Christmas Eve service televised on 25 December is
                                  celebrated not in the Church of the Nativity, which stands over the place
                                  where Jesus was said to have been born, but in the nearby Franciscan
                                  Church of St. Catherine.

                                  The largest functional Christmas cracker was 45.72 metres long and 3.04
                                  metres in diameter. It was made by Australian international rugby player Ray
                                  Price in Markson Sparks of New South Wales, Australia and was pulled in the
                                  car park of the Westfield Shopping Town in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia on
                                  9 November 1991.

                                  A goose was customary Christmas fare until Henry VIII took it upon himself to
                                  tuck into a turkey. Mince pies were once shaped like mangers and are
                                  thought to date back to the sweetmeats formerly presented to the Vatican on
                                  Christmas Eve.

                                  The freedom-fighter and religious activist thought to have been born between 6
                                  BC and 30 AD, by the name of Jesus Christ from the Greek christos, "the
                                  anointed one". He was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He started out as a
                                  carpenter, but became a missionary following his baptism by a cousin, John.
                                  After proclaiming himself the Messiah, Jesus was betrayed by a disciple and
                                  crucified. He is later said to have risen from the dead.

                                  If you're wondering why men may have not flocked to kiss you under the
                                  mistletoe, the answer may be that it was said that it will only work if the
                                  person you are kissing is a virgin. On the sixth day of the new moon, a Druid
                                  priest used to cut mistletoe from an oak tree with a sacred sickle. A passing
                                  virgin was called upon to catch the falling plant, which was not allowed to
                                  touch the ground.

                                  The first commercial Christmas card, produced in 1846, featured a drawing of
                                  family members happily toasting each other with glasses of wine - a
                                  shockingly decadent portrait that was immediately condemned by
                                  temperance advocates. In New South Wales, Australia, the average daily
                                  mailbag of six to seven million items of mail can triple over Christmas. The
                                  heaviest day ever was on 23 December 1997, when a record 23 million items
                                  were delivered in this state in Australia.

                                  Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid,
                                  Donner and Blitzen.

                                  Saint Boniface is said to have substituted a fir tree for the pagan oak in the
                                  eighth century as a symbol of faith. Martin Luther fostered the Christmas tree
                                  cult by using a candlelit tree as a symbol of Christ's heavenly home, while
                                  trees decorated with candles, fruit and paper flowers were introduced into
                                  Britain soon after Queen Victoria's marriage.

                                  The Celts used to bring a large log indoors as a tribute to the sun god. In
                                  Cornwall, revellers would chalk a symbol of a man on the log in a cheery
                                  reference to the human sacrifices who used to be thrown on the bonfire.

                                  Ancient Roman observances of the Natalis solis invicti and the Saturnalia
                                  occurred in December and involved much feasting, singing, parades and other
                                  forms of celebrating. Not to be outdone, when the Church adopted Christmas
                                  it introduced a major Christian celebration and feasting became a part of the
                                  festivities. As the centuries wore on, depending upon the country, a
                                  Christmas goose, turkey or other animal was adopted as the main course in
                                  the Christmas feast.

                                  The Christmas tree was first decorated with lights in the 16th century. It is
                                  believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to add
                                  lighted candles to the tree. He was so taken with the Christmas night sky that
                                  he wished to bring "the lights of the stars" into the home of his family. From
                                  this, decorating the tree with ornaments, messages and notes, and small gifts
                                  emerged in later centuries leading to our customs today.

                                  Hanging the Christmas stocking on the hearth on Christmas Eve in the hope
                                  that it will be filled with presents the next morning is a custom that goes back
                                  about 400 years. It derived from the custom in Holland of children placing
                                  wooden shoes next to the hearth the night before the arrival of St. Nicholas.
                                  The children would fill their shoes with straw and food for St Nicholas's for the
                                  donkey that carried the gifts. In exchange he would leave them a small gift
                                  such as small cakes, fruits and other gifts. Stockings were substituted for the
                                  shoes in Britain, most of Europe and in North America.

                                  A wreath with holly, red berries and other decorations began from at least the
                                  17th century. Holly, with its sharply pointed leaves, symbolised the thorns in
                                  Christ's crown-of-thorns. Red berries symbolised the drops of Christ's blood. A
                                  wreath at Christmas signified a home that celebrated to birth of Christ.

                                  On Christmas morning since medieval times, church bells have been rung to
                                  announce to the world the coming of the saviour. It was customary from the
                                  18th century to wear clothes and carry a small bell to signify the birth of
                                  Christ. The ringing of the bells was to signify the importance of the His Birth.

Origins of Santa Claus

Santa Claus is perhaps the most remarkable of all the figures associated with Christmas. To us, Santa has always been an essential part of the Christmas celebration, but the modern image of Santa didn't develop until well into the 19th century. Moreover, he didn't spring to life fully-formed as a literary creation or a commercial invention (as did his famous reindeer, Rudolph). Santa Claus was an evolutionary creation, brought about by the fusion of two religious personages (St. Nicholas and Christkindlein, the Christ child) to become a fixed image which is now the paramount symbol of the secular Christmas celebration.

In 1804, the New York Historical Society was founded with Nicholas as its patron saint, its members reviving the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas as a gift-bringer. In 1809, Washington Irving published his satirical A History of New York, by one   "Diedrich Knickerbocker," a work that poked fun at New York's Dutch past (St. Nicholas included). When Irving became a member of the Society the following year, the annual St. Nicholas Day dinner festivities included a woodcut of the traditional Nicholas figure (tall, with long robes) accompanied by a Dutch rhyme about "Sancte Claus" (in Dutch, "Sinterklaas"). Irving revised his History of New York in 1812, adding details about Nicholas' "riding over the tops of the trees, in that selfsame waggon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children." In 1821, a New York printer named William Gilley issued a poem about a "Santeclaus" who dressed all in fur and drove a sleigh pulled by one reindeer. Gilley's "Sante," however, was very short.

A Visit from St. NicholasThomas Nast's Santa
On Christmas Eve of 1822, another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, wrote down and read to his children a series of verses; his poem was published a year later as "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" (more commonly known today by its opening line, "'Twas the night before Christmas . . ."). Moore gave St. Nick eight reindeer (and named them all), and he devised the now-familiar entrance by chimney. Moore's Nicholas was still a small figure, however -- the poem describes a "miniature sleigh" with a "little old driver."

Meanwhile, in parts of Europe such as Germany, Nicholas the gift-giver had been superseded by a representation of the infant Jesus (the Christ child, or "Christkindlein"). The Christkindlein accompanied Nicholas-like figures with other names (such as "Père Nöel" in France), or he travelled with a dwarf-like helper (known in some places as "Pelznickel," or Nicholas with furs). Belsnickle (as Pelznickel was known in the German-American dialect of Pennsylvania) was represented by adults who dressed in furry disguises (including false whiskers), visited while children were still awake, and put on a scary performance. Gifts found by children the next morning were credited to Christkindlein, who had come while everyone was asleep. Over time, the non-visible Christkindlein (whose name mutated into "Kriss Kringle") was overshadowed by the visible Belsnickle, and both of them became confused with St. Nicholas and the emerging figure of Santa Claus.

Louis Prang 1886 Christmas cardHaddon Sundblom illustration
The modern Santa Claus derived from these two images: St. Nicholas the elf-like gift bringer described by Moore, and a friendlier "Kriss Kringle" amalgam of the Christkindlein and Pelznickel figures. The man-sized version of Santa became the dominant image around 1841, when a Philadelphia merchant named J.W. Parkinson hired a man to dress in "Criscringle" clothing and climb the chimney outside his shop.

In 1863, a caricaturist for Harper's Weekly named Thomas Nast began developing his own image of Santa. Nast gave his figure a "flowing set of whiskers" and dressed him "all in fur, from his head to his foot." Nast's 1866 montage entitled "Santa Claus and His Works" established Santa as a maker of toys; an 1869 book of the same name collected new Nast drawings with a poem by George P. Webster that identified the North Pole as Santa's home. Although Nast never settled on one size for his Santa figures (they ranged from elf-like to man-sized), his 1881 "Merry Old Santa Claus" drawing is quite close to the modern-day image.

The Santa Claus figure, although not yet standardized, was ubiquitous by the late 19th century. Santa was portrayed as both large and small; he was usually round but sometimes of normal or slight build; and he dressed in furs (like Belsnickle) or cloth suits of red, blue, green, or purple. A Boston printer named Louis Prang introduced the English custom of Christmas cards to America, and in 1885 he issued a card featuring a red-suited Santa. The chubby Santa with a red suit (like an "overweight superhero") began to replace the fur-dressed Belsnickle image and the multicolored Santas.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the burgeoning Coca-Cola company was still looking for ways to increase sales of their product during winter, then a slow time of year for the soft drink market. They turned to a talented commercial illustrator named  Haddon Sundblom, who created a series of memorable drawings that associated the figure of a larger than life, red-and-white garbed Santa Claus with Coca-Cola. Coke's annual advertisements -- featuring Sundblom-drawn Santas holding bottles of Coca-Cola, drinking Coca-Cola, receiving Coca-Cola as gifts, and especially enjoying Coca-Cola -- became a perennial Christmastime feature which helped spur Coca-Cola sales throughout the winter (and produced the bonus effect of appealing quite strongly to children, an important segment of the soft drink market). The success of this advertising campaign has helped fuel the legend that Coca-Cola actually invented the image of the modern Santa Claus, decking him out in a red-and-white suit to promote the company colors -- or that at the very least, Coca-Cola chose to promote the red-and-white version of Santa Claus over a variety of competing Santa figures in order to establish it as the accepted image of Santa Claus.

This legend is not true. Although some versions of the Santa Claus figure still had him attired in various colors of outfits past the beginning of the 20th century, the jolly, ruddy, sack-carrying Santa with a red suit and flowing white whiskers had become the standard image of Santa Claus by the 1920s, several years before Sundlom drew his first Santa illustration for Coca-Cola. As The New York Times reported on 27 November 1927:

A standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers. The pack full of toys, ruddy cheeks and nose, bushy eyebrows and a jolly, paunchy effect are also inevitable parts of the requisite make-up.

It's simply mind-boggling that at the beginning the 21st century, historians are still egregiously perpetuating inaccurate information like the following:

So complete was the colonization of Christmas that Coke's Santa had elbowed aside all comers by the 1940s. He was the Santa of the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street just as he is the Santa of the recent film The Santa Clause. He is the Santa on Hallmark cards, he is the Santa riding the Norelco shaver each Christmas season, he is the department-store Santa, and he is even the Salvation Army Santa! [Twitchell, 2000]
As we just pointed out above, the modern Santa had "elbowed aside all comers" long before the 1940s, and well before Coca-Cola co-opted him as their wintertime advertising symbol. And we're at a loss to understand how anyone could have recognized the Santa of Miracle on 34th Street as the red-and-white Coca-Cola Santa, since the film was made in black and white!

All this isn't to say that Coca-Cola didn't have anything to do with cementing that image of Santa Claus in the public consciousness. The Santa image may have been standardized before Coca-Cola adopted it for their advertisements, but Coca-Cola had a great deal to do with establishing Santa Claus as a ubiquitous Christmas figure in America at a time when the holiday was still making the transition from a religious observance to a largely secular and highly commercial celebration. In an era before color television (or commercial television of any kind), color films, and the widespread use of color in newspapers, it was Coca-Cola's magazine advertisements, billboards, and point-of-sale store displays that exposed nearly everyone in America to the modern Santa Claus image. Coca-Cola certainly helped make Santa Claus one of the most popular men in America, but they didn't invent him.

Ward's, not Santa, created Rudolph
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
When Montgomery Ward announced  that it was going out of business, a fascinating snippet of the company's past got scant attention.

One of the department store's most endearing and enduring legacies is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a Christmas staple that began as nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Back in the 1930s, the Santas working in Montgomery Ward stores gave away coloring books to kids visiting at Christmas time. Eager to save on promotional costs, the company decided to create and publish its own little storybook.

It gave the job to Robert L. May, an in-house copywriter fond of making up stories. May drew on his experience as a shy and diminutive youngster to create the story of a little reindeer who was ostracized because of a physical abnormality.

May's 4-year-old daughter gave the tale two thumbs up, but company executives were less receptive. They especially didn't like the character's name -- Rollo. A second suggestion -- Reginald -- was shot down as well.

May changed the name to Rudolph and got a friend to make playful sketches of reindeer at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. That sold the suits on the story, and the first copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer went into children's hands in 1939.

Rudolph became a bona fide celebrity after Johnny Marks, May's brother-in-law, wrote a song based on the story. Singing cowboy Gene Autry cut the record and made the song into a huge hit in 1949.

So the next time you are thinking about what a miserable failure modern-day Montgomery Ward is, consider its colorful past. By the way, the company demonstrated that it could not only be creative, but in the true tradition of Christmas, compassionate.

May's wife was terminally ill when he created Rudolph, and medical bills left him deeply in debt. He persuaded the company to give him the copyright to the story he had created. That gift allowed him to live comfortably through his retirement from Ward's  in 1971 and his death five years later.

the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Johnny Marks

You know Dasher and Dancer,
and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid,
and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all? 
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it,
You could even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names;
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?" 
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
You'll go down in history."

Gene Autry
A Russian couple were walking down the street in Moscow one night, when the man felt a drop hit his nose.
 "I think it's raining", he said to his wife.
"No, that felt more like snow to me", she replied.
"No, I'm sure it was just rain" he said.
Well, as these things go, they were about to have a major argument about whether it was raining or snowing.
Just then they saw a Communist Party official walking toward them.
"Let's not fight about it", the man said, "let's ask Comrade Rudolph whether it's officially raining or snowing".
As the official approached, the man said, "Tell us, Comrade Rudolph, is it officially raining or snowing?"
"It's raining, of course", he replied, and walked on.
But the woman insisted: "I know that felt like snow!", to which the man quietly replied:
"Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear"

A Struggling Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol”
to Enlighten the World and Make Fast Money

by John Leech 1897
I will honor Christmas in my heart.God Bless You, Merry Gentlemen.A lonely boy was reading by a feeble fire.Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig.
I know him! Marley's ghost!Frontispiece. He had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church.Mrs. Cratchit entered with the pudding.He had never dreamed that any walk could give him so much happiness.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol (as condensed by Dickens for his readings)
A Christmas Carol (with 1897 chapter headings by John Leech)
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum


Reference Sites
The History of Christmas
Christmas Trivia
Origins of Santa Claus
Ward's, not Santa, created Rudolph


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