Harper’s Bazar – January 3, 1880

Santa was extremely personal to Nast and his family; they appeared in many of the 33 Santa Claus cartoons he drew for Harper’s Weekly and the 21 he drew for Harper’s Bazar over 24 years.

Tommy and Sallie Nast had five children whom they doted on, and spaced over 17 years. As they grew older, they showed up regularly in their father’s Christmas illustrations — usually, but not always, for the better. For Christmas 1879, when baby Cyril was only four months old, they all appeared together on the cover of the post-dated Harper’s Bazar.

Nast’s children with birth date:
Julia, July 1, 1862
Tom, Jr., April 28, 1865
Edith, July 3, 1868
Mabel, December 5, 1871
Cyril, August 28, 1879

In summary, Christmas was a special time for Nast — a celebration of and with his children. The public sphere and strife that occupied the remainder of the year were irrelevant and excluded. Religious aspects were minimal, with an occasional manger scene or a casual “Peace on Earth and Good Will . . .” The holiday was all about family and peaceful domesticity.

Moreover, Nast self-identified with Santa Claus, well before he blended his own features into Santa’s face. He proved repeatedly — sometimes to his financial detriment, as when he rejected a lucrative 1877 lecture tour with Mark Twain — that being with his wife Sallie and his children was the most important value in his life. Working at home solidified that, and Christmas was its annual summit.