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Friday, December 09, 2005

Derek McCormack

Time and Place: December 9 at 7:30 pm. Collected Works, 1242 Wellington Street

Derek McCormak gave a brief slide show presentation, historical in nature, to a small but interested group in the back of Collected Works bookstore. Christmas, for Derek, is purely secular is seems. From the first slide he shares a family photo of baby Derek interested from the age of three in everything 'Christmas' - from the tinseled trees, the fake snowy window panes, Santa's castles and workshops (in all their incarnations) to sitting on Santa's lap.

Derek laments that sitting on Santa's lap is becoming a thing of the past due to the lurid side of Christmas... that Santa today is often portrayed as a corrupter of children, sexually speaking or that he's portrayed as a drunkard. (Movie: Badder Santa with Billy Bob Thornton, for example.) Today no kids are allowed to sit on the lap in the malls; there is no more throne - just a bench. Santa's in malls even, are becoming a thing of the past. Photos of your kids with Santa, he speculates, will probably be a photoshopped creation. Of course, this is the cheaper option. Santa settings are usually custom created and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create.

He explained the history, with a Canadian bent, of these Santalands (more properly called Santa settings). I found it extremely informative and we also found his anecdotes quite humorous, especially how Santa was introduced to the people in stores. In one instance in Boston, during the 20s(?), where Santa was parachuted in to the awaiting city. Unfortunately, a gust of wind blew him out to sea where he duly drowned in all his regalia. He was also once flown into one town in a bi-plane and upon his landing was found to be frozen and frostbitten. Ouch! Lesson learned: have two Santas; one seen in the plane for the spectators, and one "warm" Santa covertly awaiting below in a car where the switch was made. Santa and fire, he laughs, also often do not mix and was the big enemy. McCormack tells a story to the rapt audience about how Santa was burned alive when an errant candle set him ablaze, in front of the kids. How traumatic!

Ottawa was the last stop on Derek's tour. Aren't you sad you missed him? Christmas Days, published by Anansi for $24.95 makes a great gift for those interested in the gaudy glitter of Christmas and not so much for those interested the more profound spiritual and religious aspect of the season.


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