(Part of series on Xmas) By Alan L. Chrisman
Santa Claus (St. Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle) goes back to pagan times. But he didn't appear in North America until the Civil War. Based on the 1922 poem, "A visit from St. Nickolas'" (Night Before Xmas), cartoonist, Thomas Nast drew him to cheer up Union troops. By the 1920's & 30's, advertisers like Coca Cola had commercialized him into the image today.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" the story was created by Robert May. His wife had died of cancer before Xmas, and he didn't have any money, so he wrote it for his daughter as a gift. Montgomery Ward featured it in their line of coloring books in 1939. The song was written by May's brother-in -law, Johnny Marks, who wrote as well, several other Xmas songs, "Holly Jolly Xmas", etc. Cowboy actor, Gene Autry first recorded it in 1949; it sold 2 1/2 million copies the 1st year alone.
“THE NIGHT BEFORE XMAS"(Visit from St. Nick) poem was written by Clement Moore in 1822 to shift away from the primarily religious Xmas Day to Xmas night and towards children. That, along with Santa's image, became part of our culture:
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
Gene Autry had Xmas hit with “ Rudolph” in 1949: