Christmas Traditions

Mother Christmas: How Mrs. Claus Became The Ultimate Holiday Mom

From her origins as a plump and cheerful helper to her more recent portrayals as a strong and independent woman, Mrs. Claus has captured the imagination of people of all ages.

by | May 12, 2023

Rankin and Bass depiction of Mrs. Claus, aka Mother Christmas

Father Christmas may get all the glory, but what about Mother Christmas?

Mrs. Claus has been a part of our holiday traditions ever since the late 1800s. No matter where you’re from, we all recognize that jolly, plump old lady with white hair, glasses, and a red and white dress that matches her husband’s suit. She’s often baking cookies for the elves and getting Santa ready for his long nighttime journey, and always greets everyone with a smile.

To millions, Mrs. Claus represents all the warmth, care, and goodness that the holidays bring about. To others, she’s an early feminist icon who’s still eagerly awaiting a return to her former glory. Yet her origins are a huge mystery to Christmas lovers everywhere. As far as we know, the real Saint Nicholas from 3rd century Turkey never even had a wife. So how did this holly jolly lady in red come to be?

The Origins of Mrs. Claus

Mrs. Claus, as we know her, was first mentioned in the 1849 short story ‘A Christmas Legend,’ written by Philadelphia missionary James Rees. It tells of a traveling couple in disguise seeing shelter the night before Christmas. The man who takes them in thinks they look an awful lot like Santa Claus and his wife. And his suspicions grow when he wakes next morning to find them gone, with a pile of presents left behind. However, the two are  actually revealed to be the host’s long-lost daughter and her husband. Regardless, Rees had created a brand new mythical figure that would captivate Christmas lovers for generations. 

As the years passed, Mrs. Claus appeared frequently in several books and poems, developing a distinct personality of her own. While her husband was always jolly and a little lazy, she was feisty and unafraid to take charge. She would see that things ran smoothly, and that everyone from the children to the animals were well taken care of. And no piece of literature shows this better than Katharine Lee Bates’ 1889 poem ‘Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.’ In it, she demands to go with her husband on his journey so she can care for the reindeer and sleigh. Readers were in awe as she did everything from chase lightning to make firecrackers to fixing holes in a poor child’s stocking.

Despite being used as leverage in anti-suffragette movements, the early 1900’s brought even more progressive changes to Santa’s main gal. Most notably, in the 1914 play, ‘Mrs. Santa Claus, Militant,’ she commandeered the sleigh and delivered presents on her own.

Mrs. Claus On TV & In Movies

Mrs. Claus’ personality was toned down a lot with the arrival of television, yet she still kept some of her trademark tenacity and wit. And we see it on full display in those delightful stop motion specials of the 60s and 70s, like Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. She even served as main protagonist in 1974’s The Year Without a Santa Claus, showing that she’s just as worthy of sainthood herself. And let’s not forget about all her delightful film appearances, especially in the Santa Clause and Christmas Chronicles series.

Aside from being a super supportive wife, Mrs. Claus is also looked at as a mother figure for all the elves. After all, they work hard all the way up until Christmas Eve, so they could use a little encouragement. That’s why she’s always at the ready with cookies and hot cocoa for everyone. And when Santa’s a little too busy, she’ll take charge in the workshop and make sure everything’s done on time and perfectly. And just like before, she still tends to the reindeer and sees that they’re all healthy and strong enough to fly. 

Not surprisingly, this more domesticated image comes with some criticism. Instead of evolving with the times, many fear Mrs. Claus has regressed into a more traditional set of gender roles. But if you look closely, you can see her old sassy self  in everything from holiday commercials to TV specials.

We can’t forget about Angela Lansbury’s fiercely progressive turn as Mrs. Santa Claus in 1996. And in some films, like in the Christmas Chronicles series, she even shows off magical powers of her own. Still, people are demanding that Mrs. Claus become as much a standalone character as her husband.

Mrs. Claus & Mother Christmas

Mrs. Claus is a symbol of hope and love during the holiday season. She reminds us that, no matter what may be going on in the world around us, there is always a reason to celebrate and be thankful. Her warm and comforting presence provides a sense of security and stability during what can be a stressful and chaotic time of year.

Often depicted as a mother-figure to the Elves, Mrs. Claus's role as Mother Christmas extends beyond the North Pole and into the wider world. She is often depicted as a champion of those in need, using her resources and influence to make a difference in the lives of others. Whether it's donating toys to children in need, volunteering at a local shelter, or simply spreading joy and cheer wherever she goes, Mrs. Claus is a beacon of hope and inspiration for all.

Mrs. Claus's role as Mother Christmas is an integral part of the holiday season. Her nurturing and caring presence reminds us of the importance of kindness, generosity, and love, and her tireless efforts ensure that everyone is taken care of during this special time of year. She is the heart and soul of the holidays, and some may say she works even harder than the big man in red himself!

We don’t know about you, but the Elf Squad would love to see good old Mother Christmas off on some of her own adventures once again. Until then, let’s hear it for Mrs. Claus — the best wife and mother figure we could ask for come Christmastime.

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