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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 Rudolph the reindeer). These secular Christmas stories could be classified as mythopoeia (invented mythology), or Christian allegories.
Christianity is a Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Most Christians get baptized, celebrate the Lord's Supper, pray the Lord's Prayer and other prayers, have clergy, and attend group worship services.
A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations. The degree to which normal activities are reduced by a holiday may depend on local laws, customs, the type of job held or personal choices.
Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity. The term encompasses a broad variety of legends and stories, especially those considered sacred narratives. Mythological themes and elements occur throughout Christian literature, including recurring myths such as ascending to a mountain, the axis mundi, myths of combat, descent into the Underworld, accounts of a dying-and-rising god, flood stories, stories about the founding of a tribe or city, and myths about great heroes of the past, paradises, and self-sacrifice.
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.
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is a legendary figure originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas Eve and the early morning hours of Christmas Day. The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, the British figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas. Some maintain Santa Claus also absorbed elements of the Germanic god Wodan, who was associated with the pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.
Saint Nicholas of Myra, also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra in Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire. He is revered by many Christians as a saint. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus through Sinterklaas.
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface.
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.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1964 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Videocraft International, Ltd. and currently distributed by Universal Television. It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC television network in the United States, and was sponsored by General Electric under the umbrella title of The General Electric Fantasy Hour. The special was based on the Johnny Marks song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which was itself based on the poem of the same name written in 1939 by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May. Since 1972, the special has aired on CBS; the network unveiled a high-definition, digitally remastered version of the program in 2005. As with A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph no longer airs just once annually, but several times during the Christmas and holiday season on CBS. Unlike other holiday specials that also air on several cable channels, Rudolph airs only on CBS. It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest continuously running Christmas TV special in history. 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the television special and a series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph were issued by the United States Postal Service on November 6, 2014.
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.
"Frosty the Snowman" is a popular Christmas song written by Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson, and first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950 and later recorded by Jimmy Durante, releasing it as a single. It was written after the success of Autry's recording of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" the previous year; Rollins and Nelson shipped the new song to Autry, who recorded "Frosty" in search of another seasonal hit. Like "Rudolph", "Frosty" was subsequently adapted to other media including a popular television special by Rankin/Bass Productions, Frosty the Snowman. The ancillary rights to the Frosty the Snowman character are owned by Warner Bros., but due to the prominence of the TV special, merchandising of the character is generally licensed in tandem with that special's current owners, DreamWorks Classics.
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.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 1965 animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, the program made its debut on CBS on December 9, 1965. In the special, lead character Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a neighborhood Christmas play, but his best efforts are ignored and mocked by his peers. After Linus tells Charlie Brown about the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown cheers up, and the Peanuts gang unites to celebrate the Christmas season.
A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, commonly known as A Christmas Carol, is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published in London by Chapman & Hall in 1843 and illustrated by John Leech. A Christmas Carol recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man.
These conceptions of the true meaning of Christmas are also sung about in Christmas albums.
John David Marks was an American songwriter. Although he was Jewish, he specialized in Christmas songs and wrote many holiday standards, including "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", "A Holly Jolly Christmas", "Silver and Gold", and "Run Rudolph Run".
Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. was an American production company, known for its seasonal television specials, particularly its work in stop motion animation. Rankin/Bass stop-motion features are recognizable by their visual style of doll-like characters with spheroid body parts, and ubiquitous powdery snow using an animation technique called "Animagic". Often, traditional cel animation scenes of falling snow would be projected over the action to create the effect of a snowfall.
Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name "Joulupukki" literally means "Christmas goat" or "Yule Goat" in Finnish; the word pukki comes from the Teutonic root bock, which is a cognate of the English "buck", and means "billy-goat". An old Scandinavian custom, the figure is now being eventually conflated with Santa Claus.
Romeo Earl Muller, Jr. was an American screenwriter and actor most remembered for his screenplays such as for the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
In traditional festive legend, Santa Claus's reindeer pull a sleigh through the night sky to help Santa Claus deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve. The commonly cited names of the eight reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. They are based on those used in the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore, arguably the basis of the reindeers' popularity.
Arthur Gardner Rankin Jr. was an American director, producer and writer, who mostly worked in animation. A part of Rankin/Bass Productions with his friend Jules Bass, he created stop-motion animation features such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,Frosty the Snowman,Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, and the 1977 cartoon animation of The Hobbit. He is credited on over 1,000 television programs.
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town is a 1970 stop motion Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. The film stars Fred Astaire as the narrator S.D. Kluger, Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle / Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, and Paul Frees in various roles. The film tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Claus-related Christmas traditions came to be. It is based on the hit Christmas song "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", which was introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934, and the story of Saint Nicholas.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys is a 2001 American-Canadian Christmas computer-animated adventure musical film directed by Bill Kowalchuk for GoodTimes Entertainment. It was released on video and DVD on October 30, 2001. The film uses the characters from the 1964 Rankin/Bass TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and takes place several years after the events of that special. The film thus revisits classic characters like Hermey the Elf and Rudolph, who is now famous in the Arctic tundra.
Frosty the Snowman is a 1969 animated Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions and currently distributed by Universal Television. It is the first television special featuring the character Frosty the Snowman. The special first aired on December 7, 1969 on the CBS television network in the United States; it has been airing annually for the network's Christmas and holiday season. The special was based on the Walter E. Rollins and Steve Nelson song of the same name. It featured the voices of comedians Jimmy Durante as the film's narrator, Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle the Magician, and Jackie Vernon as Frosty.
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July is an American Christmas/Independence Day television special produced by Rankin/Bass, featuring characters from the company's holiday specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, among others. It is the third television special to feature the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman characters, respectively. It was filmed in Japan using the company's trademark "Animagic" stop-motion animation style. The film premiered in the US on November 25, 1979 on ABC.
O Christmas Bush is a 2006 holiday-themed album by the Capitol Steps. It was released in November 2006, after the mid-term Congressional elections, thus several of the jokes on the album were already dated due to the impending control of Congress by the US Democratic Party. Unlike many of the Steps' recent albums, this one was not recorded live in front of an audience. It is the group's first holiday season release since 1993, and their third such release overall.
Rated Xmas is a music parody album. The songs on the album are parodies of popular Christmas songs, but with graphic, often sexual, lyrics.
The Christmas Album is a holiday music album by country music singer Lynn Anderson released in 1971.
Christmas with The Chipmunks is the name given to four different Christmas music albums by Alvin and the Chipmunks. These albums were released individually in 1962, 1963, 2007 and 2008.
In American, Canadian, Irish, and British cultures, a Christmas elf is a diminutive elf that lives with Santa Claus at the North Pole and acts as his helper. Christmas elves are often depicted as green or red clad with large, pointy ears and pointy hats. Santa's elves are often said to make the toys in Santa's workshop and take care of his reindeer, among other tasks.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a soundtrack album to the 1964 Rankin/Bass television special of the same name. The original cast recordings from the TV special are supplemented with instrumental versions recorded by the Decca Concert Orchestra. All songs used in the television special were written by Johnny Marks.