Christmas Fantasy Feast

Christmas Fantasy Feast  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Bertoia Auctions.

When you boil it all down Christmas is really about cherishing our memories of Christmas.  The nostalgia of opening presents and wading through the mess in the living room on Christmas morning is poignant for many.  Celebrating the day through longstanding traditions like eating the turkey you've been smelling all day long is another.  

Isn’t it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for—I don’t know what exactly, but it’s something that you don’t mind so much not having at other times.
— Kate L. Bosher, Novelist

The world, for some, gets a little softer and a little more charming.

"Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for--I don't know what exactly, but it's something that you don't mind so much not having at other times," novelist Kate L. Bosher said.    

In Santa Fe where I live on Christmas Eve the town is blazing with light (luminaries) from thousands of bags filled with sand and lighted candles dotting the flat-roof tops of the adobe homes.  It's like the stars fell from the sky.  The sweet smell of pinon wood drenches the night air from three-foot high bonfires along the roadside.  It's uncomplicated and enchanting.

From a commercial point of view if Christmas didn't exist it would be invented anyway because we live in a culture that says you can never buy enough, get enough, or have enough.  You also don't have to stop Christmas shopping just because you run out of money.  

George and Martha Washington filled their Mt. Vernon home with friends and Martha's 40-egg cake on Christmas Day.  Thomas Jefferson played the fiddle.  Franklin D. Roosevelt read Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" to his children.  Dolly Madison served her famous cinnamon-laced eggnog.

It was a simple time when simple values ruled.

For many Americans Christmas day culminates with a visit from the "big guy" from the North Pole.  I just have to look into the eyes of my young grandson and granddaughter to remember how important Santa Claus is to kids.  I forget.  

The Santa image most of us seem to remember of the fur-trimmed red suit and the jolly fat guy was penned in 1863 by Thomas Nast for "Harper's Illustrated Weekly".  This 23-year-old Bavarian immigrant took inspiration for Santa from his own childhood memories of the German "Pelze Nichol".

Nast went on to become a successful political cartoonist penning both the Republican Party elephant and the Democratic Party donkey. 

When sales are down at Christmas retailers know a well-placed Santa makes all the difference. 

The child-star Shirley Temple said she stopped believing in Santa Claus when she was six.  Her mother took her to a department store to see him and as fate would have it--Santa asked for her autograph.

Nonetheless, there's something alluring about this pudgy, red-faced gnome from the north, at least for me.  For Santa collectors, it's all about the face.  If collectors don't like the face they probably won't buy the figure.  At the same time the vintage Santas have an old world charm that's hard to pass up.

The older Santas were made with cotton batting, paper mache, chenille, twigs and die cut scraps. They’re reproducing them today but most likely they’ll be missing the patina of age that only a vintage Santa possesses.  If Santa looks new, he probably is.

On Sept. 19-20 Bertoia Auctions featured a selection of vintage Santa's and a reindeer in it sale.  

Santa Claus

Candy Container; Belsnickle; red robe, green trim; holding feather tree and holly wreath; German;  131/2inches high;  $1,121.     

Candy Container; Belsnickle; Father Christmas; Standing on Snow Mound; German;12 inches high;  $1,888.

Saint Nicholas Figure; red robe; holding paper feather tree; German;16 1/2 inches high;  $2,006. 

Reindeer Figure; lifelike animal covered with fur-like hide; clockwork; wind-up mechanism; German; 24 inches long by 19 inches high;  $5,900.

Store Window Display; Santa Nodder with Child; contains clockwork mechanism; German;  24 inches high;  $7,080.


Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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