Sunday, December 9, 2012

Letter to a Friend by Fra Giovanni, 1513

"I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got. But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy! Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty . . . that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it, that is all! . . . And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away."

"Letter to a Friend" by Fra Giovanni, 1513

This excellent bit of writing, was brought to my attention when listening to to "The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice. It is a remarkable album and utterly invokes the truest Spirit of the Season. The Revels are an organization dedication to spreading the joy of seasonal celebration as a common human need. We all need Revels.
 Available at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Concerning Father Christmas.

Concerning Father Christmas....

Victorian Father Christmas

(Reposting this from my LiveJournal 12/10/2012. Edited to include more images)

I love Santa Claus. The image has grown in importance for me over the years and sentimentality. So much so, that now, I seem to be fulfilling a somewhat secret longing.....

So my secret?
I want to play Santa Claus.
(There, I've typed, and now the world knows)
I have for years. As a matter of fact I have once before. In 3rd Grade I was picked to be Santa in our Christmas pageant. I was very tall, had a good "Ho, Ho, Ho" and was outgoing, etc.

Little Shane as Santa

My mother was the seamstress for the event and made the suit for me.
Now there is something about that suit. Put it on once and it may haunt you for a while. I have learned this from several other professional Santas. The image grows in you and binds you to it.

So of course this lead to me ultimately collecting Santa Figures. As I posted in my previous entry about our decorations. Here is a better picture of my favorite, made, once again, by my ever so talented (it runs in the family), mother.

title or description

I continue to collect and hope to create my own someday. The artistry is wonderful and there are many talented creators out there who make their full income strictly from Santa. I will share some of my favorites in links. is the home of the very creative Pipka. I have only one 3 inch figure of her's, but I love it. And the many other designs are breathtaking. (This is a subtle hint for those interesting in expanding my collection....)

Lynn Haney deserves a mention not only for the quality of his work, but the fact that he, like myself is a native Texan. I do not currently own any of his pieces....

Lynn Haney Father Christmas

And I would be remiss were I not to offer a link to A very nice blog for collectors everywhere.

So perhaps this deserves a bit of an exploration of the Santa story. Many others have done this better than I, so there are many links to Wikipedia entries coming for you to explore.

As many know, a bearded robed, kindly male figure, capable of working magic, brings presents and good will during the winter solstice period, world wide. This archetypical Father Christmas figure certainly has roots in human culture far older than many might imagine. Stretching back into our prehistoric minds with touches of Finnish Joulupukki, and his reindeer shamans...

Sometimes, Joulupukki is assisted by his Nissor, and the Norse God, Odin. Mix well with the stories of the real man, St. Nicholas of Myra.

Add a bit of Dutch Flavor for Sinterklaas, and then of course Americans translated that to Santa Claus. In Russia they welcome Ded Moroz, or "Father Frost". (I just love that name)

A gorgeous and inspirational picture for the season. From a Russian Theme park for Ded Moroz, (Grandfather Frost). The stone roughly translates as "The doors are always open to our house and anyone is always welcome at anytime so you can believe in fairy tales

Now most folks wrap all these fellows together and you get a mix of it combined. The many social conventions and creations get adopted and thrown in along with the rest. Rudolph makes his appearance in a silly little television special and is now "canon" in Finland, even though they have never adopted the names from the Clement Moore poem, The Night Before Christmas. And finally, the blending of the American Santa Claus with the English Father Christmas is complicated, but a wonderful explanation it all is available Here.

So what does this have to do with a grown man dressing up in a silly outfit to make kids smile...oh, wait, I already do that sometimes! After all, I am a Bubble Guy!

Anyway, I never thought I would actually be able to portray Santa. Due to a genetic factor in my ancestry, I seem to be unable to grow a full beard. And I always thought the false beards to look rather cheap. Little did I know.

We have always visited the Annapolis Mall to see the Santa there for Ellawyn. He is very good, a "Real Beard" as they are known in the business. Here is this year's picture.

Ellawyn with Santa 2007

I have managed to chat with him on a number of occasions and through a bit of encouragement from him I decided to do some research. And behold. There is vast community of those who present Santa to the public professionally. The beginnings of this lie with Charles W. Howard, the founder of the Santa School. There are number of Santa Schools actually but this one is the oldest. Howard was a fellow who saw the poor quality of the store Santas and decided to do something about it. Howard also said, "He errors who thinks Santa enters through the chimney. Santa enters through the heart." Last year, Bill Weir, of Good Morning American visited the school. Although I would love to attend this, the cost of several hundred dollars will forbid it for now.

There are lots of other resources out there as well. For those that can grow the real beard, well there is The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, and then there is the forum I have recently joined, The fellows there, and ladies too as there are a number of Mrs. Clauses on there and helper elves as well, have all been very welcoming and supportive, as there are enough kids and Christmas Spirit to go around.

One recent movie we saw for the first time, (and let me tell you, since setting out on this endeavor, any movie with Santa in it is watched with a critical and professional eye!) was The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Unbeknown to us, this wonderful story was written by L. Frank Baum, the creator of the Wizard of Oz series. The movie was done by Rankin and Bass, the stop motion artists who are responsible for the ever so popular shows like Rudolph and Frosty. Amazing little movie, in which Santa is raised by forest Faeries and granted the Mantle of Immortality for his good works just before his mortal death. This naturally was disapproved of by the conservative community and doesn't get alot of air play, but see it if you get a chance.

There are lots of resources out there for the other various Santa bits, although I won't have to use most of them. Here is one example which provides much higher quality items then some others. Adele's of Hollywood, a purveyor of fine Santa goods to professional Santas worldwide. Great stuff. Luckily, due to my connections with my sewing mother, Rennfest artisan friends, and my own craftsman skills, I won't be needing much of this for my outfits. The beard and wig shall be my biggest expense. Through my research on these I have learned that higher end yak hair whisker sets are the way to go. Properly mounted and done with a little liquid latex over the seams, you can hardly see tell. Glittered up and decorated, well, he just looks magical! After all, that "Right Jolly Ole' Elf" has a fundamental connection to Faeries and Magic. I have seen some of the pros who the image is delightful well done and you just can't tell.

What I have in mind is an mix of old and new traditions. Contrary to urban legend, Coca Cola did not create nor do they own the trademark to the Red and White popular culture image of Santa. Although they did finalize that in the collective consciousness. The colors were already a traditional image of the SinterKlauss fellow, as can be seen in the Victorian Father Christmas in my first picture. So I am thinking something with woolen pants, a Green Velvet Waistcoat vest, and then the over jacket. Longer than normally seen, to the knee. With a hood. Somewhat inspired by the excellent artistry of the suit worn by Tim Allen in the Santa Clause movies. Done in nice woolen and perhaps even real fur trim. Although real fur is difficult to work with and doesn't wear well. If I can find a faux that works well and has a sparkle to it, then that would be great. I want as much magic and fantasy to the effect as possible. And a richness mixed with a real look. As is the case with Rennfest workers, we aren't wearing costumes, we are wearing garb. Costumes are designed to be worn once in a while, to a party and then put away. Garb is clothing to be lived and worked in.

I also seem to have convinced my "Mrs. Claus" of the fun of all this. We are designing her a Renaissance inspired fantasy dress. Perhaps a bit more magical and faerie than doughty and with the apron as is commonly seen. The Mr. and Mrs. would be wearing their best clothing to appear in public after all. Although her appearances will have to limited until Ellawyn is old enough to participate in fun. With the beard, makeup, and perhaps some contacts to change my eyes, I can hide my mortal self from her, but that is not so easy with Mrs. Claus. And we want to preserve the magic and suspend the belief as long as possible.

I want my first suit to be as close to "Traditional" Red and White, while still being old world and realistic as possible. This is for business reasons. Later I can add a long green over gown and present a renaissance inspired Father Christmas, and perhaps more. I would like to do public appearances, and perhaps some private parties. Our schedule would mostly forbid me from doing mall work, although am intrigued in "Sitting in the Big Chair" and already have plans for a Santa Throne that can be knocked down and transported. Perhaps in a Mission or Arts & Crafts style. I would like to be that Father Christmas that all my Faerie Friends, artisans, and history buffs would like to take their kids to. So I get it all together, get the headshots and bio sheet and look for gigs. We shall have to see. I never really thought I would be able to do it. But so it is. Perhaps its the strands of gray appearing at my temples. Or the little girl who is dancing about singing Christmas songs in my home.

There is one thing I have learned from this. Christmas Wishes can come true.

So I leave you with this reminder....

"Poor, misguided folks. They missed the whole point. Lot's of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn't Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn't a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give: of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa's beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men."