When did Santa Claus arrive in Spain and what role did the brands play in it?

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In my childhood Christmas memories, Santa Claus isn't really the one that matters. The "sacred" date when it comes to gifts was the Three Kings Day, which was when the living room was full of packages. For me, as a girl born in the mid-1980s, Santa Claus or Santa Claus was an accidental figure. Some year - especially when USB Directory it seemed that everyone was starting to celebrate that party - I did have a gift, but it was always much less than what I received on Three Kings Day. They were a "detail".


In the memories of the Christmas experiences linked to my little sister, born already in the 90s, I do remember, on the contrary, that Santa Claus came every year. Although the important one was still the Three Kings Day and that day was only a gift, everyone was already celebrating the day and it was practically impossible to leave someone under 10 years old without gifts that day.

Is there a generational leap? Or had Santa Claus in fact invested the last decades of the 20th century consolidating his position in the Spanish market?

For the children who grew up during the 90s, even if the date was not given importance in their homes, Santa Claus was everywhere. It was already a decorative and festive resource that companies used to boredom to create "Christmas spirit" and also one of the elements that were used as call material to generate traffic to consumer spaces. Progressively, more stores were incorporating a Santa Claus on the dates indicated.

To this we must add that the American series, which we saw on television in an almost religious way, all had chapters dedicated to the visit of Santa Claus and the gifts. The Christmas chapter was inevitable and its message was clear. For the children who grew up in the following years, Santa Claus was already fully integrated into popular culture and, therefore, escaping him, however alien to tradition, was impossible.

In 2007, in fact, a La Despensa campaign had focused on the war between the Magi and Santa Claus, even putting a voodoo doll on Fuencarral street in Madrid to position itself against the 'usurper'. With humor they approached the idea that Santa Claus was a tradition imported simply to consume much more.

But how invented was Santa Claus and how did he come to our lives? Had brands and companies managed to do magic and create one more consumerist party where there was none before?

The Kings are from the XIX
From the outset, perhaps it should be remembered that, like so many other Christmas traditions that today seem classic to us, the Three Wise Men themselves are also something relatively modern. Giving gifts and starring in festive parades actually began in the 19th century. Yes, they are something that is celebrated in Spain, but its current vision is marked by what began to be done during the 19th century. In the Spain of that time, as Francisco José Gómez Fernández explains in a Brief History of Christmas , the party was one of "merriment."

Children roamed the streets making noise and adults participated in the party in their own way. But the Kings did not bring gifts until the middle of the century, when what they gave was also more useful (clothing and food) than pleasure. The first Three Kings parade is from 1887.

The Santa Claus of the 30s
The battle between the Magi and Santa Claus is surprisingly not new. The first mentions of the character and his growing presence in Spain start in the 1930s, when he had a brief flash of glory that later disappeared.

Santa Claus at an event in Madrid in the 30s Photo via Digital Newspaper Library
A chronicler of La Voz de Galicia writes about what he was seeing in Madrid at Christmas 1935 (the article appeared in the issue of January 1, 1936). Reading it, almost a century later, is especially curious, because the changes that the chronicler collects are precisely some of the changes that have occurred in recent decades and that have marked a secularization of festivals and an almost "Americanization" of celebrations. .

Thus, for the celebration of Christmas Eve, the stalls of nougat and marzipan increased in the city, but also those who celebrated "the party outside the family environment" and went to spend it at a restaurant or "la sierra". More people were putting mistletoe in their homes and, for what we are interested in, more families were starting to celebrate Santa Claus. "Santa Claus and Santa Clauss gain ground to the Magi, our old friends who have gone out of style", writes the chronicler.

The truth is that brands were taking advantage of this trend. In 1934, a full-page advertisement in Madrid's La Nación (this one discovered via Digital Newspaper Library), used Santa Claus as a claim to attract the public. The Simeon department store had a Santa Claus who gave gifts to children, as bait for them to take to their mothers. It must have worked, because in 1935 and 1936 they repeated the claim.