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Vintage Photos of Santa Claus that Look Totally Bizarre (and Frightening) Today

Nikola Budanovic

With the holiday season just around the corner, the streets and malls are merry and joyful with decorations and people dressed as Santa Claus. While the tradition was inspired by Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Christian monk, Santa Claus has now become a worldwide phenomenon and a symbol of Christmas generosity.

Even though it is one of those things that kids need to find out sooner or later, the myth of Santa Claus is revived every year with thousands of people around the world who participate by taking up the role of a white-bearded man in red.

Santa

Santa

 

Santa

Santa

 

A man dressed as Santa Claus fundraising for Volunteers of America in Chicago, Illinois, in 1902.

A man dressed as Santa Claus fundraising for Volunteers of America in Chicago, Illinois, in 1902.

 

Berlin, December 1931. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-12842 CC-BY-SA 3.0

Berlin, December 1931. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-12842 CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

World champion heavyweight boxer Max Schmeling as Santa Claus hands out gifts to poor children. Berlin, December 1931. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-12850 CC-BY-SA 3.0

World champion heavyweight boxer Max Schmeling as Santa Claus hands out gifts to poor children. Berlin, December 1931. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-12850 CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Santa Claus crosses the Inner German border from Herleshausen to Lauchrödem, December 23, 1989. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1223-011/Ludwig, Jürgen CC-BY-SA 3.0

Santa Claus crosses the Inner German border from Herleshausen to Lauchrödem, December 23, 1989. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1223-011/Ludwig, Jürgen CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Just no

Just no

 

Just double no

Just double no

 

Photo by Fotothek CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Photo by Fotothek CC BY-SA 3.0 de

This tradition is well-known around the world and it usually involves enthusiasts or paid actors who are willing to dress up and spend hours talking with children about their Christmas wishes. Santas are usually obliged to listen, but to avoid making promises, as it could backfire if the parents aren’t able to provide the wanted gift.

They also need to be prepared for a barrage of questions coming from the ever-doubting children. However, if a question involves something that would be better left unanswered, a handy get-out-of-jail reply would be “I’ll ask Mrs. Claus.”

It sure isn’t an easy task to fulfil, but according to some, it is greatly rewarding to put smiles on children’s faces, as they eagerly list the presents they would like to find under the Christmas tree.

Then there are others.

Santa Claus helps promote the Salvation Army Christmas dinner for the poor. Photo by Getty Images

Santa Claus helps promote the Salvation Army Christmas dinner for the poor. Photo by Getty Images

 

“Christmas star Princess and Santa Claus”

“Christmas star Princess and Santa Claus”

 

Old Christmas in Rodanthe, NC, January 1938. Photo by State Archives of North Carolina.

Old Christmas in Rodanthe, NC, January 1938. Photo by State Archives of North Carolina.

 

Santa Claus hands out gifts, Rodanthe, NC, January 1938. Photo by State Archives of North Carolina.

Santa Claus hands out gifts, Rodanthe, NC, January 1938. Photo by State Archives of North Carolina.

 

Santa Claus, 1958. Photo by FORTEPAN – Lencse Zoltán CC BY SA 3.0

Santa Claus, 1958. Photo by FORTEPAN – Lencse Zoltán CC BY SA 3.0

 

Santa collecting his Christmas mail.

Santa collecting his Christmas mail.

Although with best intentions, the costumes sometimes achieve an effect quite the opposite from joyful. In some cases, Santas wear masks that look like fuel for childhood nightmares, while others are just downright creepy.

Read another story from us: Judy Garland Initially Refused to Sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

While the idea of an obese old man breaking and entering through your chimney to drop off some presents, like a reverse burglar, sounds unsettling enough, some of these eerie mask-clad Santa characters wouldn’t look out of place in a Halloween line-up.