Jay Frankston and A True Christmas Story

christmasEverything ties back to Christmas–sometimes in a neat little package.

Yesterday, I was listening to “This I Believe,” a “public dialogue about belief–one essay at a time.” This week’s featured essay, titled “Speak Up” is a personal statement about Jay Frankston’s youth, a Jewish child in Paris during the Holocaust.  He echoes what others have said about how violence and cruelty spreads.  It is the silence of the masses that allows the evil to grow.

The essay is beautiful, but stranger than his non-fiction, is the brief biography at the end–Jay Frankston spent most of his adult life portraying Santa Claus in New York City.  His book, “A Christmas Story:  A True Story” is easily accessible to read and/or purchase on the web.

I listened to the entire 20-minute autobiographical story last night.  Why a Jewish man would choose to portray and promote Christmas is curious indeed.  I won’t tell the whole story, but the part I liked best was when he met a little girl who said she didn’t receive Christmas presents because she was Jewish.  Frankston whispered, “I’m Jewish, too.”

I’m curious to find a photograph of him as Santa because he explains that he wore a rubberized mask, which must have been uncomfortable.

This sent me to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.  (Jeremy mentioned this in our last podcast.)  Mr. Frankston has not yet been inducted, so I’m adding an official nomination to the list of Yule Log 2013 plans. . .

Sand Santa Claus

I’ve been thinking more about that Christmas Bucket List idea.  So many ideas of things to put on the list!  Don’t want to get too much into this topic without Natalie, but had to share one thought today.  We have talked numerous times about how Christmas would be in a more tropical or summer climate.  I was searching around a little online and discovered that there are many Christmas themed sand castle, or sand art, competitions and displays that happen around the world.  I think our Bucket List must include either visiting one of these locations or actually creating some marvel of our own.  We could maybe organized some large mid-Atlantic competition that would include elaborate displays with lights and motion, and charge admission that would go to charity.  If you’ve been closely following the Yule Log, please add this to our list of HUGE ideas without much chance of happening- oh well…

Check out these simple creations built on the coast in India…

Happy Father’s Day!

Today we take extra care to recognize and celebrate our Fathers.  Here at the Yule Log we must be sure to include Father Christmas in the recognition.  Father Christmas is one of the oldest representatives of the Christmas spirit.  He is known as many other names including Papa Noel, Pere Noel, and Bobbo Natale.  You might also have heard him called Old Father Christmas, Sir Christmas, or Lord Christmas.  Father Christmas may have lived in the mountains in Lapland, Finland.  He grew out of the tradition of the Anglo-Saxon god Woden, or Odin in Norse mythology.  Father Christmas wore green robes (until writers and custom of the Victorian era switched him to red) and embodies the good cheer that is the Christmas spirit.  He was not a gift bringer or associated with children, more seen as the leader of adult feasting and drinking.  The Victorians started to merge his actions with those of the more child-centered St. Nicholas.  He also heavily influenced the creation of what would become Santa Claus in the United States and Canada.  Today we interchange Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, and Father Christmas easily.  We have morphed them all into a singular idea and persona when in fact they have a varied background and differing origin tales.   Father Christmas was the one to lead the people into a time of focus on good cheer and strong community.  Regardless of the name used, I know we all enjoy family, especially Dad, at Christmas and today.  Happy Fathers Day 2012!

Shake Up Christmas

Yesterday,  Jeremy and I were involved in yet another one of our annual work events.  When the stress level is high, it’s quite possible that one or the other of us will call for emergency supplies–a Diet Coke.  That made me think of the annual Coca Cola Christmas campaigns which began over 80 years ago and helped to shape our popular image of Santa Claus.

After reading the corporate history of the Coca Cola campaigns, I learned they began in 1922 with the slogan “Thirst Knows No Season.” This is because most people associated Coca Cola as a thirst-quenching warm weather beverage.  In 1931, Coca Cola commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images of Santa Claus.  He based his illustrations on details in the “Twas a Night Before Christmas” story.

As I was thinking about Coca Cola, I decided to look at their most recent Christmas Campaign 2011 using a song “Shake up Christmas,” first recorded by Train in 2010 and then by Natasha Bedingfield for Coca Cola’s 2011 Christmas ads. How did I miss this song?  How did I miss the videos?  I like the Train video better than the 2011 campaign, but the theme is the same.  Santa shakes a snow globe and the world inside the snow globe comes alive with Christmas miracles.  It doesn’t cause tears like the Hallmark campaign, but it does warm the heart. Which version of the song do you like better?

More about Coca Cola in future posts.

Where is the North Pole?

Santa lives there, but where exactly is the North Pole?  Geographically speaking it is located at exactly 90 degrees North latitude.  It is the point on our globe where axis comes to the surface.  It is the only place on the planet where all turns lead South.  There is no actual land located at the North Pole.  It is a large frozen mass of ocean.  No native peoples ever lived there, the closest being over 500 miles to the South in Nunavut in Canada.  Right now it is night at the North Pole.  Sunrise will come near the Spring Equinox and sunset won’t come until the Autumnal Equinox in September.  That’s right, only one single day in a whole year.  There is also no local time at the North Pole.  It doesn’t really sound like the place Santa and his elves would be making so much joy.  But of course they could all be a hidden magical part of the North Pole, or maybe one of the other North Poles.

There’s North Pole, New York.  This tiny town is in the Adirondack mountains.  They claim to have over a 90% chance of a white Christmas.  Santa’s Workshop is actually located there!  It opened in 1949 and may be one of the oldest theme parks in the United States.  You can check out all the details at their website- Santa’s Workshop.

There’s also North Pole, Alaska located just outside Fairbanks.  It is another small town.  They host the Santa Claus House- a gift shop with the world’s largest Santa Claus Statue.  Christmas is all through the town.  Streets have holiday themed names. The fire trucks are all red and the municipal vehicles, including cops, are all green and white.  Christmas is everywhere in North Pole.  They even have a professional roller derby team named the North Pole Babes in Toyland.  You can plan a trip now, just visit the town’s official site- North Pole, Alaska.