Santa nailed to cross
December 23, 2007 — 9.25pm
Art Conrad has an issue with the commercialism of Christmas, and his protest has gone way beyond just shunning the malls or turning off his television.
The US resident nailed Santa Claus to a 4.5 crucifix in front of his house in Bremerton, in Washington state on the US Pacific coast.
“Santa has been perverted from who he started out to be,” Conrad said. “Now he’s the person being used by corporations to get us to buy more stuff.”
A photo of the crucified Santa adorns Conrad’s Christmas cards, with the message “Santa died for your MasterCard”.
The display is also Conrad’s way of poking fun at political correctness. He believes people do not express their feelings because they are afraid of what others might think.
His neighbours found the will to express their feelings this past week. Some were offended but many were just curious.
Jake Tally walked by and chuckled, but did not pretend to understand the message.
“I don’t really know what to think. I know it’s about God but Santa has nothing to do with it,” he told the Kitsap Sun newspaper.
Santa Hung on a Cross in Japan?
Did a Japanese department store once display Santa Claus nailed to a cross?
- David Mikkelson
- Published 23 October 1999
A Japanese department store once created a Christmas display featuring a smiling Santa Claus nailed to a cross.
Driven by a thriving retail industry, a cultural penchant for obligatory gift-giving, and a fascination with the West, the Japanese adopted (and adapted) several traditional Western holiday celebrations after World War II. Stripped of their meaning and bent to the whims of retailers, however, these holidays have taken some rather unusual forms in Japan over the years.
By far the most well known of these Japanese/Western holiday blendings is the notorious story of a department store somewhere in Japan that one year supposedly erected a prominent Christmas display featuring as its centerpiece the smiling figure Santa Claus nailed to a cross. It’s a perfect expression of the clash between the holy and the profane, the secular and the religious, the East and the West. It speaks to xenophobic fears (these foreigners can’t be trusted with our religion and our traditions!), and it’s a darn funny story.
A few Decembers ago a Japanese department store, desperate to appear westernised and with-it, mounted an extravagant Christmas display, featuring a life-sized Santa Claus, crucified upon a cross.1
The granddaddy of cultural faux pas [in Japan] occurred just after World War II, when a Ginza department store rolled out its elaborate Christmas promotion: a smiling Santa nailed to a crucifix.2
A Japanese department store reputedly once put up a big Christmas cartoon which had a Santa Claus prominently displayed on a crucifix. Whether or not this story, which has been doing the rounds in Tokyo for some years, is true or just another urban legend, is unclear.3
[An American Motorola executive] recounted a famous story of 1945, the first year of the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II, when shopkeepers in Tokyo’s Ginza district knew there was a big Western holiday coming and they wanted to capitalize on it.
“They knew there was this guy in a white beard and a red suit, and they knew there was a religious angle,” [he] said. “And the result was little Santa Clauses on crucifixes.”4
A few years ago, in Kyoto, one department store filled its center window with an enormous effigy of a crucified Santa Claus.5
However, despite all the people who assert that the tale of the crucified Santa is true and that they know someone who actually saw it, the literal truthfulness of this legend is suspect. No one to our knowledge has produced evidence documenting that such a Christmas display was ever used commercially in Japan (other than as a knowing joke), such as a photograph of the scene or a contemporaneous news account that recorded its date and location.
As well, in true urban legend fashion the details of where, when, and how the crucified Santa Claus was displayed are vague and vary from telling to telling: Santa appeared on a cross in Kyoto, Tokyo, the Ginza district, or a specific department store (such as Mitsukoshi); he was represented with a gigantic figure, a life-sized display, several small characters, a billboard, or a cartoon drawing; and Santa was nailed to a cross in Japan in 1945 or 1962 or 1990 or anywhere between “just after World War II” to “a few years ago.”
Tim Willis reports on the urban myth that refuses to die
Tim WillisWednesday 17 December 2014 22:45
If you type “crucified Santa” into Google Images, you’ll see that various idiots have mocked up pictures of the jolly old soul nailed to a cross; or gone one better, donning Father Christmas outfits and posing like the dying Christ on crosses of their own; all in tribute to one of the world’s great cultural confusions.
The story goes that, some time after the American occupation of post-war Japan, its inhabitants were first exposed to the non-religious aspects of Christmas – elves, grottoes, sleigh bells and the rest – and came to understand that the fat man from the North Pole had something to do with the birth of Jesus (best remembered in those parts not for his humble birth but for his gruesome end).
Wanting to join in the spirit of the thing and demonstrate their modern, “Western” credentials, Japanese shopkeepers saw an opportunity to stimulate sales. And so, with more zeal than scholarship, the window dresser at one of the main department stores produced his centrepiece: a life-size effigy of a smiling “Father Kurisumasu” – complete with white beard, red tunic, shiny belt and boots – attached to a facsimile of Our Lord’s final instrument of torture…
Unfortunately, the story’s too good to check – because it never happened. Such misunderstandings have occurred in other places at other times. (When the Cuzco Indians of Peru were converted to Catholicism, for instance, they mixed up angels and conquistadores, and in their paintings equipped the heavenly host with muskets instead of bugles.) But the Japanese Passion of Santa Claus is an urban myth.
Although The Washington Post reported it in 1995 and The Economist in 1993, there are no photographs or first-person recollections. The source has been at best what modern folklorists call a “foaf”, or “friend of a friend”. The incident has been variously dated to the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s – in these publications and others – and located in both Tokyo and Kyoto.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that the story is entirely false. As the poet said, truth is beauty, beauty truth. And like all great “contemporary legends” – as those folklorists call them – this one exquisitely captures the fact (or fear) that the Japanese had both adapted and adopted Western consumerism to impressive effect and profit without really understanding or espousing the underlying values. And clearly, some of them had a different take on physical cruelty and suffering, as any manga fan would tell you.