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Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Claus (right) says goodbye to her husband as he sets off on his journey in this 1919 postcard
Known forMaking cookies with the elves, caring for the reindeer, and preparing toys with her husband and his elves
SpouseSanta Claus

Mrs. Claus (also known as Mrs. Santa Claus or Mrs. Santa) is the legendary wife of Santa Claus, the Christmas gift-bringer in Western Christmas tradition.

History

Origin

The wife of Santa Claus is first mentioned in the short story "A Christmas Legend" (1849), by James Rees, a Philadelphia-based Christian missionary.[1] In the story, an old man and woman, both carrying bundles on their backs, are given shelter in a home on Christmas Eve as weary travelers. The next morning, the children of the house find an abundance of gifts for them, and the couple is revealed to be not "old Santa Claus and his wife", but the hosts' long-lost elder daughter and her husband in disguise.

Mrs. Santa Claus is mentioned by name in the pages of the Yale Literary Magazine in 1851, where the student author (whose name is given only as "A. B.") writes of the appearance of Santa Claus at a Christmas party:

[I]n bounded that jolly, fat and funny old elf, Santa Claus. His array was indescribably fantastic. He seemed to have done his best, and we should think, had Mrs. Santa Claus to help him.[2]

An account of a Christmas musicale at the State Lunatic Asylum in Utica, New York in 1854 included an appearance by Mrs. Santa Claus, with baby in arms, who danced to a holiday song.[3]

A passing reference to Mrs. Santa Claus was made in an essay in Harper's Magazine in 1862;[4] and in the comic novel The Metropolites (1864) by Robert St. Clar, she appears in a woman's dream, wearing "Hessian high boots, a dozen of short, red petticoats, an old, large, straw bonnet" and bringing the woman a wide selection of finery to wear.[5]

The keeper of the naughty-or-nice ledger in "Lill's Travels in Santa Claus Land", 1878

A woman who may or may not be Mrs. Santa Claus appeared in the children's book Lill in Santa Claus Land and Other Stories by Ellis Towne, Sophie May and Ella Farman, published in Boston in 1878. In the story, little Lill describes her imaginary visit to Santa's office (not in the Arctic, incidentally):

"There was a lady sitting by a golden desk, writing in a large book, and Santa Claus was looking through a great telescope, and every once in a while he stopped and put his ear to a large speaking-tube.
"Presently he said to the lady, 'Put down a good mark for Sarah Buttermilk. I see she is trying to conquer her quick temper.'
"'Two bad ones for Isaac Clappertongue; he'll drive his mother to the insane asylum yet.'"

Later, Lill's sister Effie ponders the tale:

Effie sank back in the chair to think. She wished Lill had found out how many black marks she had, and whether that lady was Mrs. Santa Claus – and had, in fact, obtained more accurate information about many things.

Much as in The Metropolites, Mrs. Santa Claus appears in a dream of the author Eugene C. Gardner in his article "A Hickory Back-Log" in Good Housekeeping magazine (1887), with an even more detailed description of her dress:

She was dressed for traveling and for cold weather. Her hood was large and round and red but not smooth, – it was corrugated; that is to say, it consisted of a series of rolls nearly as large as my arm, passing over her head sidewise, growing smaller toward the back until they terminated in a big button that was embellished with a knot of green ribbon. Its general appearance was not unlike that of the familiar, pictorial beehive except that the rolls were not arranged spirally. The broad, white ruffle of her lace cap projected several inches beyond the front of the hood and waved back and forth like the single leaves of a great white poppy, as she nodded emphatically in her discourse.
Her outer garment was a bright colored plaid worsted cloak reaching to within about six inches of the floor. Its size was most voluminous, but its fashion was extremely simple. It had a wide yoke across the shoulders, into which the broad plain breadths were gathered; and it was fastened at the throat by a huge ornamented brass hook and eye, from which hung a short chain of round twisted links. Her right arm protruded through a vertical slit at the side of the cloak and she held in her hand a sheet of paper covered with figures. The left arm on which she carried a large basket or bag – I couldn't tell which – was hidden by the ample folds of the garment. Her countenance was keen and nervous, but benignant.

Mrs. Claus proceeds to instruct the architect Gardner on the ideal modern kitchen, a plan of which he includes in the article.[6]

Illustration from Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh-Ride, 1889

Santa Claus' wife made her most active appearance yet by Katharine Lee Bates in her poem "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride" (1889).[7] "Goody" is short for "Goodwife", i.e., "Mrs."[8]

21st century

In 2018, there was an increasing demand for holiday appearances of Mrs. Claus as a standalone character separate from Santa Claus.[9]

In 2023, Sheryl Lee Ralph became the first celebrity and the first black woman to play Mrs. Claus in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade's history.[10]

In popular media

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Since 1889, Mrs. Claus has been traditionally depicted in media as a fairly heavy-set, kindly, white-haired elderly female baking cookies or mending clothes somewhere in the background of the Santa Claus mythos. She sometimes assists in toy production and oversees Santa's elves. She is sometimes depicted in her youth to have had red hair. She is usually depicted wearing a fur dress of red or green.

Her reappearance in popular media in the 1960s began with the children's book How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas, by Phyllis McGinley. Today, Mrs. Claus is commonly seen in cartoons, on greeting cards, in knick-knacks such as Christmas tree ornaments, dolls, and salt and pepper shakers, in storybooks, in seasonal school plays and pageants, in parades, in a department store "Santa Lands" as a character adjacent to the throned Santa Claus, in television programs, and live-action and animated films that deal with Christmas and the world of Santa Claus. Her personality tends to be fairly consistent; she is usually seen as a calm, kind, and patient woman, often in contrast to Santa himself, who can be prone to acting too exuberant.

In more recent films such as The Santa Clause series, Fred Claus, and The Christmas Chronicles series, Mrs. Claus is not always depicted according to the elderly white-haired stereotype, but sometimes appears to be younger than Santa. In the case of The Christmas Chronicles, this is true despite the fact that Goldie Hawn, known for maintaining her youthful blonde appearance, is actually six years older than Kurt Russell who plays Santa.

Mrs. Claus departs even further from the stereotype in more recent films, such as the 2020 Mel Gibson film Fatman, where she is a black woman played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste.

Literature

Mrs. Claus has appeared as a secondary character in children's books about Santa Claus and as the main character in titles about herself.

Films

Television

Mrs. Claus appears in several of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday specials. In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), she is seen as pestering her husband to eat, lest he becomes a "skinny Santa". In Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970), she is introduced as a teacher named Jessica, who first meets Kris Kringle as a young man trying to deliver toys to a town ruled by a despot. She assists him and thus becomes a wanted fugitive herself with Kringle and his confederates. In light of this sacrifice, Jessica and Santa soon fall in love with each other and marry in the nearby forest. In The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974, voiced by Shirley Booth) and live-action remake (2006, played by Delta Burke), she has a prominent role showing a despondent Santa that there's still some Christmas spirit left in the world. Mrs. Claus also made appearances in several other Rankin/Bass specials, including Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979).

Bea Arthur portrayed Mrs. Claus in a series of commercials for the Canadian drugstore chain Shoppers Drug Mart, part of Arthur's seven-year run as spokeswoman for the company between 1984 and 1991.

Angela Lansbury starred as the protagonist of the 1996 television musical Mrs. Santa Claus, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Stranded in 1910 New York City, under the guise of Mrs. North, she marches for women's suffrage, and strikes to reform child labor in toy manufacturing. Anna Claus then joins Santa on an improved route around the world.

A 2005 episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, "Billy and Mandy Save Christmas" depicts Mrs. Claus as Nancy, a powerful vampire who turns Santa undead. Another appearance the same year is a Dragon Ball Z parody sketch in the Robot Chicken Christmas Special, where Mrs. Claus gains powers from the North Pole's radiation and becomes a giant monster.

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown's sister Sally writes to Santa and asks, "How is your wife?" Later, in It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, she writes Santa's wife herself, and when Charlie Brown comments that some people call her "Mary Christmas", Sally congratulates her on choosing to keep her own surname. In Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales, Sally writes Santa Claus as "Samantha Claus", thinking that is her name.

Mrs. Claus appears in A Chipmunk Christmas, where she buys Alvin a harmonica after he gives his old one to a sick boy. Her identity isn't revealed until the end when Santa returns home and she greets him.

Boost Mobile created some controversy with an ad featuring Mrs. Claus in bed with a snowman. One version was briefly aired on late-night TV while two alternate versions were posted online.[12] Ad Age had some commentary about the spot, including "This latest ad from Boost Mobile and agency 180, Los Angeles, features Mrs. Claus doing something very, very bad."[13] Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, CNN and a number of local TV news channels commented about the ads.

She appears as a character in Duncanville where the eponymous character Duncan Harris has a crush on her and refers to her by her first name "Mary". This makes Santa (who she calls "Kris") jealous and come after Duncan with a shotgun.[14]

Marks & Spencer 2016 Christmas campaign

For 2016, British clothing and food company Marks & Spencer launched an integrated marketing campaign centered on a modern interpretation of Mrs. Claus. The campaign included a three-minute ad released on 11 November 2016 which sees Mrs. Claus receiving a letter from a seven-year-old child asking for help with a gift for his older sister, with whom the boy has a difficult relationship.

The ad depicts Mrs. Claus as more modern than previous examples, with her riding a snowmobile and flying a helicopter while Santa is out delivering gifts in the traditional sleigh. At the conclusion of the ad, she says to Santa "Well it wouldn't be fun if you knew all my secrets" suggesting she has a secret life assisting with Christmas present delivery. The brand also created a social media campaign in which Mrs. Claus answered requests and questions from members of the public.

The ad was received positively by customers and the press with many people commending the brand for taking a feminist approach to a traditional character.[15][16]

The ad was directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper with Mrs Claus played by British actress Janet McTeer. Music was composed by Rachel Portman. The ad was created for Marks & Spencer by advertising agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, a London-based division of Young & Rubican.

Music

Nat King Cole released "Mrs. Santa Claus", with accompaniment by Nelson Riddle's orchestra, as the flipside of his 1953 single "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot".[17]

In contrast to her stereotypical portrayal, Mrs. Claus is portrayed as a woman bored with her relationship with Santa Claus in the song "Surabaya-Santa" from Jason Robert Brown's musical Songs for a New World and in the Oszkars' off-color song "Mrs. Claus has a Headache Again".

Comedy duo Cheech and Chong released "Santa Claus and His Old Lady" in 1971, with Cheech trying to explain (in his own way) the origin of Santa and Mrs. Claus to his always-stoned friend, Chong.[18]

George Jones and Tammy Wynette released the 1987 single "Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus", a love song with Jones and Wynette portraying the two characters.

Bob Rivers recorded "Me and Mrs. Claus", a parody of the soul song "Me and Mrs. Jones", for his 2002 album White Trash Christmas.

Bob Ricci recorded "Mrs. Claus", a parody of the pop hit "Stacy's Mom", for his 2005 recording Not a Christmas Album.

Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez wrote the song "A Hand for Mrs. Claus" as a duet for Idina Menzel and Ariana Grande for the 2019 album Christmas: A Season of Love.

Video games

See also

References

  1. ^ James Rees, Mysteries of City Life, J. W. Moore, 1849, p. 1.
  2. ^ "Holiday Week", The Yale Literary Magazine, vol. 17, December 1851, p. 82.
  3. ^ "Santa Claus", The Opal, vol. 4, no. 1, 1854, p. 27.
  4. ^ "Editor's Easy Chair", Harper's, vol. 24, no. 141, February 1862, p. 411.
  5. ^ Robert St. Clar, The Metropolites, New York: American News Company, 1864, p. 37
  6. ^ E. C. Gardner, "A Hickory Back-Log", Good Housekeeping, vol. 4, no. 6, January 22, 1887, p. 125.
  7. ^ Penne L. Restad, Christmas in America: A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 148. ISBN 978-0-19-510980-1. Although Restad gives the publication year as 1899, most sources say the poem was published in 1889.
  8. ^ "Goodwife" and "Goody", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed.
  9. ^ Ellis, Rebecca (22 December 2018). "This Year, Mrs. Claus Is Coming To Town – And Not As Santa's Sidekick". NPR. Retrieved 25 December 2020.
  10. ^ Ray, Alyssa (November 23, 2023). "Fans Can't Get Enough of Sheryl Lee Ralph as Thanksgiving Parade's First Black Mrs. Claus". Parade.
  11. ^ "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians".
  12. ^ "boostmobilecommunity.com". www.BoostMobileCommunity.com. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  13. ^ Wheaton, Ken (2009-12-01). "Mrs. Claus Gets Frigid in Naughty Boost Mobile Ad | Advertising and Marketing Wisdom: Adages – Advertising Age". Adage.com. Retrieved 2012-12-24.
  14. ^ "Plumbdog Millionaire". Duncanville.
  15. ^ Metro.co.uk, Olivia Waring for (2016-11-11). "The 2016 M&S Christmas advert about Santa's wife totally sleighs John Lewis". Metro. Retrieved 2016-11-22.
  16. ^ "All hail Mrs Claus! How the M&S Christmas ad went fully feminist". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved 2016-11-22.
  17. ^ 01musicfan (21 December 2010). "Nat King Cole – Mrs. Santa Claus". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved 22 May 2017 – via YouTube.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "Cheech & Chong – Santa Claus and his Old Lady". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12.

Further reading