A jovial and corpulent Santa Claus with a flowing white beard who travels on a reindeer sledge in frosty, blistering cold, distributing gifts to the children and radiating optimism, love and happiness all along his path, is the most vivid, memorable and ubiquitous Christmas iconography. It instantly delights us and brings a smile on our face.
A map titled “A World of Good Wishes at Christmas time”, which was made in 1955 by General Drafting Company, a now-defunct mapmaker, shows Santa Claus traveling across continents and spreading mirth.
Santa can be seen having a good time and unending fun in the map. He’s riding an elephant in India and walking across the Equator in the middle of the Atlantic.
Santa is doing a handstand on top of the Eiffel tower in Paris, preparing to jump off one of the pyramids in Egypt, trying to see through the erstwhile Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, and harpooning a whale off the coast of Iceland. Santa knows how to refresh himself and be high in the festive spirits, both literally and metaphorically, as he is seen with a mug of beer near the deserts of North Africa.
The map was made in the ‘roaring 50s’ – an era when American power and prestige was on a rapid rise post World War 2, the middle class was burgeoning and the country was the quintessential shining city on the hill in many regards, especially prosperity and abundance of resources.
An image on the left of the map shows an enthusiastic Santa in an American convertible sedan, highlighting American self-confidence and swagger.