In the 1960’s my mom bought a life-sized promotional poster of Santa Claus while attending college. She hung him on her wall at Christmas and she and her roommates took pictures in front of him for fun. She doesn’t remember what form of advertising this perfect plump little Santa poster was selling, or where she picked it up, and almost threw it away at one point. Little did she know this poster would some day become legendary to her future children and grandchildren and part of decades of Christmas traditions.
You see, her Dad, my Grandfather, was an artist and wood worker. When he saw this bright-colored version of Jolly old St Nick he must have appreciated this artistic rendition and set out to preserve it with a genius idea. He glued the poster to plywood and carefully cut it out with a jig saw. By so doing this vintage Santa became a time-tested Christmas icon and to me the only way I could ever picture old St Nick. I can still see him by the fireplace at my Grandparents home in Fairview Utah nearly 50 years ago.
All believers have their version of what Santa looks like and he was mine. As a young boy this poster conjured up magical excitement every time I saw it, whether it was tucked away in my Grandfathers shop or on full display at Christmas, this image was the real Santa to me. Like most seasonal decor he has spent much of the past many years stored away in shops, closets and garages sometimes not even taken out at Christmas as kids grew up and moved away.
This was true after it was passed on to our family. As an older child I couldnt’ wait to get Santa out of our basement and place him by the fireplace in early December. But as my brother and sister and I all left home and started families of our own, Santa rarely was displayed back home. Despite this, when the folks retired and moved from California to Idaho, good old Santa went too and found a new home tucked away in their garage.
A couple of years ago when they were planning yet another move down here to Arizona, my Mom mentioned on the phone they did not have room in the uhaul for Santa and he was finally going to the dump. What?? I was mortified! I begged them to find room so he could make the trip! “For heavens sake, that’s the real Santa, he can’t go to the dump! I want him”, I said emphatically. After a little convincing they loaded him up on the very top of all their belongings, and though a little tattered, he is now part of my families Christmas display bringing joy to a 3rd and 4th generation. And yes, I still get that magical feeling every time I walk in my living room and see him there by the fireplace.
A few years ago, in the spirit of the true meaning of Christmas, we started a new tradition by making a silhouette nativity to display at our Holiday parties outside. My oldest daughter sketched out a Mary and Joseph on plywood and I cut them out with a jig saw. They were painted black and are back-lit with white Christmas lights. The manger is a crate mad from an old shipping pallet and a spotlight shines down on a burlap swaddled Babe.
It really turned out amazing and we improve it a little each year. (I will include the plans in our DIY section) Maybe some day my kids will beg me not to throw it away because they want to display it in their yard for the next generation to enjoy. That is how traditions start and that is how they are passed down through the years. Merry Christmas!