At Christmastime during childhood, my family invoked Deda Mraz, the ex-Yugoslavian version of Santa Claus. Unlike Santa, he dresses in frosty blue, carries an icy staff, and is accompanied by a snow maiden as a mascot instead of elves and reindeer. Also, his beard and coat are longer. He’s not the only one who represents an alternative version of the holidays, either; there’s Krampus the Christmas Demon. In fact, from what I recall, the two were kind of a team. Father Frost aka Deda Mraz rewarded the good children while Krampus scared the hell out of the rest.
But enough about weird European Christmas characters. In America, Santa Claus has a different image, but it’s no less charming and intriguing than the one I grew up with. In fact, every year, my husband Brendan A. Murray is a modern-day mall Santa. Seriously; I must have a thing for them. Anyway, let’s just take a moment to celebrate the “real” Santa Claus: the one that’s dominated the American advertising industry for the past century in order to convince us to buy things for people we love.
“When it comes to Christmas presents, there’s no better salesman than Santa himself,” say the folks over at at North America’s top-selling nostalgia magazine, Reminisce. “The jolly man in the red suit has endorsed everything from light bulbs and vacuum cleaners to Budweiser beer over the years.”
Reminisce shares some of St. Nick’s most memorable ads from the past century in an online gallery that turns Santa’s proverbial sleigh into a time machine. Here are a few of our favorites.