Father Christmas whips himself into shape
Santologists refute existence of "bowlful of jelly" Santa; todays Chris Kringle is a lean, clean, gift-giving machine
Santa Claus, it seems, has been given a bum rap. A big bum rap. Specifically, there is some concern in the scientific community that the waist and seat size of Santas pants have been grossly exaggerated over the years.
When Clement Clarke Moore penned his famous "Twas the Night Before Christmas" in 1822 (as a present for his two daughters, Margaret and Charity), it is believed that he took some liberty with his depiction of St. Nick; a.k.a. Chris Kringle; a.k.a. Father Christmas; a.k.a. Santa Claus.
It turns out that Moore had never actually met the man, and most definitely never confronted him in his living room that fateful Christmas Eve long ago. Twas was not a first-hand account of a genuine Santa siting, as was first believed, it was just a harmless poem he wrote to entertain his daughters.
Or seemingly harmless. That poem, later illustrated by a friend of Moores, perpetuated the illusion that Santa:
"Had a broad face, and a little round belly / that shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly / He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf / And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself."
It was a powerful and somewhat appealing illusion of Santa, one that would eventually become accepted as a Christmas fact over the years. It was an illusion that was perpetuated in other Christmas stories, in movies and TV shows, in picture books, in parades, on the street and in the malls.
As a result, its become almost impossible to think of Santa as anything other than a "chubby, plump, old elf" with cheeks like roses and a nose like a cherry.
The research, however, is in Santa Claus, while certainly big-boned, is far from plump. In fact, according to a team of experts from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Santa is in excellent physical condition.
"The fact that Santa is a big man does not mean he is overweight, unfit or unhealthy," says Department of Kinetics professor Debbie Vossen.
"Our research indicates that St. Nick must have gained and maintained a high level of health and fitness over the years. This is demonstrated by his ability to remain efficient at delivering gifts to so many children around the world each Christmas Eve."
When Moore wrote Twas , it was a very different time. The globe, though thoroughly traveled, still had a few question marks on it. Canada itself was only a few settlements here and there, with all commerce and population concentrated in the East. The U.S. was relatively unpopulated, with settlements restricted almost entirely to the Atlantic seaboard. Europe, while undoubtedly well-settled, was still relatively unpopulated by todays standards.