Tuesday, December 10, 2013

K.A.C. 2013 - T - 15 ...

     Yesterday we talked about Thomas Nast and how his iconic images of Santa Claus became the "official" look of the character. That look was cemented with his accompanying drawings to Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (aka "'Twas The Night Before Christmas") poem - from there, Santa started appearing everywhere - cards, advertisements, calendars, etc. ... what is known today as "branding".

     One of the earliest examples of this was Christmas board games. This topic is of particular interest to me as I collect vintage board games and was surprised in my research to see these! At first I thought, "What a horrible idea - what kid would want to play these? They would have such limited appeal - they would probably sit in the closet all year." The more I thought about it, however, the more it struck me ... that's EXACTLY what they would do, on purpose! The parents of the Victorian era would have these put aside and ONLY bring them out for the children to play with as Christmas drew near, to increase the anticipation of the arrival of the Big Day for the little tykes. Rather sneaky that, what?

     The games were easy to follow even for the youngest member of the family. Here are three examples of what constituted Christmas fun back then. Our first game (from 1890) was called Christmas Mail (see photo at left). The object of the game was to help Santa deliver Christmas cards to all the addresses on the board (as if he didn't have enough to do delivering all the packages, now he's stuck doing the postal worker's job, as well!) - the winner was the first person to get all his cards delivered.

     Next (from 1896) is the Parker Brothers game of The Night Before Christmas (as seen at right). Years before they created Monopoly, they had this game out, based on the famous holiday poem. This was a race game, where players were competing Santas (I rather like that idea, actually!) who flew their sleighs seeing who could deliver their toys to all the houses the quickest. This game gets points taken off for the creepiest-looking Santa, though ... just something about those eyes ...

      The "Santa Race" idea would prove so popular there would be a number of variations on the theme, including the 1901 Game of the Visit of Santa Claus, where this time, in addition to lashing those poor antlered beasts to a frothing frenzy dashing around the world in one night, you also collected "gift cards" along the way - hey, enough of this gift GIVING, right, Santa?

     There would be many other Christmas board games over the years (including, yes, CHRISTMAS-OPOLY), but these were some of the earliest ones to set the pace (my thanks to Slate.com and The Museum of Play for the info and pictures of these games).


     Come back tomorrow for more!

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