Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Myth

I find it fascinating that our common concept of the mythical figure of Santa Claus as a fat man in a red and white suit originated with Coca Cola ads about 100 years ago. Red and white are the company's logo colors and the lovely, romantic, cheerful paintings and drawings of him drinking a Coke after delivering presents was all about reviving sales of the beverage to kids after the government forced them to remove the cocaine from the formula and sales to adults declined.

As a character to enter popular mythology from the world of advertising, Santa Claus is in sort of a unique position.

one of the components of all mythologies is magic. Characters are always described as being able to perform feats that defy rational explanation, such as personally delivering toys and gifts to every household in the world with the assistance of flying reindeer (or at least the parts of the world that believe this myth).

The resilience of this character may be due to the fact that he is intimately linked to this time of year when warm and fuzzy feelings abound and somehow many people seem able to set aside grievances and difficulties and show compassion for others in a greater than average way.

We also see outpourings of compassion when a tragedy occurs and people rush to volunteer assistance, but the unique aspect of this season every year is that these heart warming stories and occurrences are perennial.

Somehow the joy and magic of this myth, even though it originated as an advertising campaign, endures far beyond its original scope, generating real life stories such as the Secret Santas that pop up in the news at this time of year.

This is another fascinating example of the power of myth. Enjoy it for another day or so. We can all use a little more joy and magic in our lives.

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