[FOUNTAIN]Yes, readers, there is a Santa

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[FOUNTAIN]Yes, readers, there is a Santa

Among movies about Christmas is one called "Miracle on 34th Street." The movie was produced in 1947 and starred Maureen O'Hara and John Payne. It is the story of a child who does not believe in Santa Claus and how she regains her innocence after she meets the real Santa Claus working in a department store. Though I have seen the film quite a few times on television, it never fails to touch me.

We should be a little disappointed to learn that our current depiction of Santa Claus, who whispers dreams and fantasies to children worldwide, is a creation of marketing strategists of American capitalism. The Santa Claus we see today, with his white beard and red suit, was created by the Coca Cola Company in 1931. Coca Cola, whose sales slumped during the winter, sought help from Haddon Sundblom, a painter, who came up with the present Santa Claus in red and white clothes. The artist used red and white because they were also the colors of Coca Cola's logo. Then the Santa Claus in red and white spread into Europe and other parts of the world and became an established figure.

Until the 19th century in the United States, Santa Claus did not exist. The Dutch had venerated Saint Nicholas, who was born in Turkey, since the fourth century and delivered Santa Claus to America when they moved there. Saint Nicholas is said to have handed out presents to children on Dec. 5, and it has become common in Germany and the Netherlands for children to find presents inside socks on that morning. Later, Puritans in America switched the date to Dec. 24.

Some parents are concerned about impersonating Santa for their children. Will their children be crushed if they see through the deception? But this worry disappears when children become mature and realize the meaning of the symbol of Santa Claus.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias."

This was written by Frank Church, an editor of the New York Sun, a daily newspaper, in 1897 responding to a letter from an 8-year-old girl asking if Santa existed.

Recently, an Australian teacher was fired for telling 6-year old children that there is no Santa Claus. This is an appropriate measure for an unqualified teacher who destroys children's innocence.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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