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Let's Reminisce: Recent additions to the Santa Claus tradition
By Jerry Lincecum
Dec 25, 2018
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According to Wikipedia, the popular tradition of Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, goes back many centuries, but it has acquired some interesting new elements within the last hundred years.

In 1939 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was added to the Santa tradition. Popularly known as "Santa's ninth reindeer," Rudolph first appeared in a 1939 booklet written by Robert L. May and published by Montgomery Ward, the department store and catalog business.  This fabled reindeer is usually depicted as the lead reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve, though he is a young buck who has only adolescent antlers and a glowing red nose. The luminosity of his nose is such that it illuminates the team's path through harsh winter weather.

The story of Rudolph has been adapted in numerous forms including a popular song.  I was seven years old when Gene Autry's recording of the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart the week of Christmas 1949. Autry's recording sold 2.5 million copies the first year, eventually selling a total of 25 million. The iconic television special about Rudolph came out in 1964. Since 2014 marked the 75th anniversary of the character and the 50th anniversary of the television special, a series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph was issued by the US Postal Service in November of that year.

A more recent addition to the Santa tradition is gThe Elf on the Shelf,h and it has proved to be a mixed blessing for parents.  The tradition of the Elf has resulted from the widespread popularity of a book by that name which appeared in 2005.  Itfs a children's picture book, written by a mother-daughter team, and it tells a story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and nice. It describes gscout elvesh visiting children daily from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The story ends on Christmas Day with the Elf leaving to stay with Santa for the rest of the year. The Elf on the Shelf book comes in a keepsake box that features a small elf.

The story describes in detail how Santa's "scout elves" hide in people's homes to watch over events. Once everyone goes to bed each evening, the elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa the childfs activities, good and bad, that have taken place throughout the day. Before the family wakes up each morning, the scout elf returns from the North Pole. By hiding in a new spot around the house each morning, the elf plays an ongoing game of hide and seek with the family.  Over 13 million elves have been adopted in households since 2005, and they are given names.

Remembering to move the elf to a new location every night after your child goes to bed is not easy.  One family bandaged a leg of their elf, named Jack, to make him appear to be unable to walk, explaining to their child that they had a note from Santa telling them Jack should not be moved.  One of my neighbors reported that when her grandson performed in his piano recital recently, it was imperative that his elf attend and be photographed in the audience.  Facebook records many anecdotes that indicate both how seriously children take this new ritual and also their creative responses to it.

One senior citizen remarked that what kept him and his generation under control was gthe belt on the shelf.h

Jerry Lincecum is a retired English professor who now teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories.  He welcomes your reminiscences on any subject: jlincecum@me.com