“And so this is Christmas” sang John Lennon in his hit song about the festive season.
But what is Christmas? Theoretically it is a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, a moment when the western world would stop and pause to reflect at the end of the calendar year. “Goodwill to all men” … and women, was the theme.
In World War I in the trenches on the Western Front*, the German and British troops put down their weapons on Christmas Day 1914 and shared drinks together in the spirit of peace and goodwill. After the drinks they went back to their trench lines and resumed shooting at each other!
In the modern age we saw Christmas become a festival of consumerism*. Santa Claus and his reindeers competed with the nativity scene of the birth of Christ in department store front windows. Santa seemed to win out.
Soon we saw the image of the jolly fat man in the red suit as the popular non-religious visual image for Christmas. Santa Claus, along with his reindeers, elves, the toy workshop at the North Pole and the sleigh ride on Christmas Eve, with which he delivers presents to well behaved children around the world, proved a popular fairytale not only for kids but for retailers* as well.
I thought I would look at Christmas and Santa in a cartoon. I wondered how Santa might survive in this new world of doing business.
China has become the new powerhouse of manufacturing. Nearly everything we buy is ‘Made in China’. How would Santa’s North Pole workshop compete with China and its low-cost manufacturing? Would the elves be prepared to take a pay cut?
In this year of the coronavirus and lockdowns we’ve seen people pivot* to shopping online more than ever before. The goods are then shipped by worldwide couriers to our front door. Maybe there’s no need for reindeers and sleighs dropping presents down chimneys!
And if Santa needs to check on whether children have been good, perhaps he no longer needs to send elves to peep through bedroom windows: all he has to do is checkout children’s social media posts on Instagram and he can see what they’ve been up to!
My cartoon would try to answer all these questions by illustrating how Santa’s operation might look in the 21st century.
Firstly I got rid of the elves and their expensive labour costs, the North Pole workshop went too and the cartoon shows ‘Santa Industries’ manufacturing out of a big factory in Guangdong Province, China with 100,000 low paid Chinese workers working 24-hour rotating shifts! Sitting in his office Santa also explains how the reindeer had to go too; DHL and FedEx were much more efficient in express parcel delivery.
The cartoon seeks to paint a picture of the commercialisation of Christmas. It’s also a comment on modern economies and how the manufacturing world has changed.
But that doesn’t mean we still can’t show peace and goodwill to each other. Hopefully that never changes! A Merry Christmas to all!
- Western Front: main area of fighting in Belgium and France in World War I
- consumerism: obsession with buying things
- retailers: businesses that sell goods; shops
- pivot: change direction
- Who is the main character in this cartoon?
- What is the cartoon about?
- What happened to the elves?
- What can we still show to each other at Christmas, regardless of change?
- Who wrote this story?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What Happens Next?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the middle cartoon of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the cartoons before and after that tell the story.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking
‘To be a great cartoonist, being able to draw is only one of the skills that you need.’
Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job. Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.
Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design
Stretch your sentence
Find a ‘who’ in the cartoon. A person or animal.
Write it down.
Add 3 adjectives to describe them better.
Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?
Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.
Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What does Christmas mean to you?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.