Initially when the idea of a “what movie Santa is the best Santa” article was pitched, I envisioned a Hunger Games-esque competition where all of the Santas would face off in pursuit of the title of Ultimate Santa. Then I remembered Arnold Schwarzenegger punching a Santa in the face in Jingle All the Way and decided I couldn’t stand any violence towards the jolly fellow.
An unexpected problem popped up – most of the movies I associate with Christmas don’t actually have Santa in them. It’s tradition to watch Love Actually and try to decide which story strand is my favourite (currently Liam Neeson’s), and on Christmas Day it would be wrong to have anything other than The Muppet Christmas Carol on in the living room. Despite having “ho ho ho” in it, it wasn’t Santa that said “now I have a machine gun ho ho ho.”
But there are two that are particularly magical.
The Snowman is a staple of the festive telly lineup. Sure enough it’s about a boy and his snowman, but they take a trip to the North Pole where they have some sort of hoedown with loads of snowmen pals.
Of course, jolly old St Nick is there too. He is the one I remember from my childhood. His comically plump appearance became iconic for me; his rosy cheeks gave him a childlike innocence; his bulbous nose looked prime for pinching. It didn’t hurt that he resembled the Santa from the Coca Cola advert – there’s even some sort of synesthete reaction where you can almost taste the cola.
As a kid, this was everything you could want from a Santa. He was joy personified. He was all smiles, a warmth in a winter landscape, with a beard like snow and a smile so warm it made the snowmen nervous.
As an adult, the Santa is Richard Attenborough’s in Miracle on 34th Street. Attenborough’s Kris Kringle resembles Santa physically but more importantly he represents the belief in Santa and the joy it brings to everyone. People flock to see him because of how good he is at being Santa – he has a selflessness and a wish to see everybody happy, which is what Christmas is all about as you stop believing that he is real and face the prospect of adulthood. We needn’t forget that Santa still exists as we grow old; just in a different way. Attenborough’s Santa is an idea, a mindset, and a festive persona we all take on. Plus, it’s legally decided in the movie that Santa exists, so there’s that too.
I can’t take on the appearance of an animated Santa, nor how he appears in Miracle on 34th Street either, but the latter’s existence allows us all to be him in a way – be joyful, be merry, and spread the festive cheer. If you do that, you’re doing a good job of keeping him alive.
Merry Christmas everyone!
[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]