Secular Christmas stories

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Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus with an illustration for the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly. The first Santa Claus appeared as a small part of a large illustration titled "A Christmas Furlough" in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. This Santa was a man dressed up handing out gifts to Union soldiers.

There exists a wide range of secular Christmas stories, told in popular music, on television, and in the cinema, that are told about the Christian holiday of Christmas, that may be based on or allegorize the biblical Christian mythology of Christmas, as the birth of Jesus, but not necessarily. The stories may also have newer interpretations and introduce new characters (such as Rudolf the reindeer). These secular Christmas stories could be classified as mythopoeia (invented mythology), or Christian allegories.

In popular music, on television, and in the cinema[edit]

Santa Claus is the English name for the Christian Saint Nicholas, secularized in popular culture as an old man with supernatural powers living at the North Pole, much like magic and powerful characters in mythology: Santa Claus has supernatural powers and uses them to magnanimously deliver gifts to children around the world. Santa was based on the legends of Saint Nicholas. Santa was given an amplified mythological identity in the Clement Moore poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (the title of which is often misidentified as Twas The Night Before Christmas.) Comparative mythologies have also noted the ancient Germanic myths of Thor driving a cart led by goats in the sky (which led to the folklore of the Yule Goat) is like Santa driving a sleigh led by reindeers in the sky, so think Santa may stem from both Christian and pre-Christian Germanic mythology.

In the 1950s, several Christmas cartoons emerged that deliberately adopt elements of Christian stories to convey the "true meaning of Christmas" in allegorical terms.

An early film, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV special) based on a Gene Autry song, involved a rejected and mocked reindeer that ends up leading the other reindeer through the help of a misfit elf and misfit toys.

Similarly, Frosty the Snowman contains several Christian motifs, is the story of a snowman who comes to life for a time, melts (dies) but also reassures his childlike followers that he will "be back again some day." The television special developed from this song invents the concept of Frosty being made from "Christmas snow" which entails that he can never completely melt away and thus has an eternal essence.

Following these early television Christmas specials, there have been countless other Christmas TV specials and movies produced for the "holiday season" that are not explicitly Christian but seek to describe "true spirit of Christmas" beliefs, such as "togetherness," "being with family," charitable acts, and belief that even bad people or situations can be redeemed. While many sundry examples of Christmas films exist, examples of films with Christian mythical elements include: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (film), A Charlie Brown Christmas, and various adaptations of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

These conceptions of the "true meaning of Christmas" are also sung about in Christmas albums.

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