Saturday, December 27, 2008

The diffusion of Santa Claus

TigerHawk posts a couple of Santa Claus photos, one a sand sculpture from India and the other an ice sculpture from China, that offer a lot to think about about regarding the spread of ideas, symbols, and narratives. TigerHawk concludes:

that Santa Claus is the most commercially significant and internationally appealing non-religious legend in the history of the world.

This is a good example of the kind of voluntary cultural diffusion that Claudio Veliz describes in The New World of the Gothic Fox, which has several chapters looking at how the Hellenistic, British and American cultures were unique in the prolific generation of cultural products, practices, traits, images and symbols that appealed not only to members of their own culture but proved to be very attractive to people of other cultures and thus were disseminated through voluntary adoption. The legend of Santa Claus is so appealing that it inspires people to produce these sand and ice sculptures which are themselves appealing to the imagination so that they serve as a vehicle for the further diffusion of the image and legend of Santa Claus. We need to apply this to our public diplomacy/strategic communication efforts as well as private-sector narrative-diffusion projects.

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