Saturday, December 15, 2012

Random Muppet #30: Santa Claus

On the Muppet Wiki, there is a "Random Muppet" button which sends you to the page of one of the thousands of Muppets in existence. I will press the button and discuss the importance of the Muppet that comes up, no matter how obscure. No skips. No redos. This is the Random Muppet Challenge.

(This week is the special Christmas Edition. For Christmas.)

Random Muppet #30: Santa Claus

Must be Santa Claus.

Performer:  Various

Muppet Universe of Origin:  Sesame Street

Most Significant Appearance:  Weihnachten mit Ernie & Bert, December 24, 2008

Santa Claus has appeared in many Muppet-related Christmas specials, but most of those appearances have been in human form.  Occasionally, other established Muppets portray Santa to serve the purposes of the story.  But Santa himself has only appeared as a Muppet a few times.  Outside of a couple Sesame Street News Flashes, Santa Claus (the Muppet) was most prominently featured in 2008's Sesamstra├če special Weihnachten mit Ernie & Bert.

Of course there are rubber duckies and paper clips in their tree.

The special is essentially a collection of Sesame Street clips surrounded by a framing story that awkwardly sets up each one.  It'd be fine if they used Christmas related clips but instead they choose traditional holiday topics like "squirrels collecting nuts" or "high-quality fashion."  Anyway, aside from these deviations, the basic story concerns Ernie and Bert preparing their German holiday getaway for the arrival of Santa Claus, as many do on Christmas Eve.

You know, like cleaning the chimney.

Throughout the evening, an old man (dressed in white and red) keeps trying to come inside from the freezing weather, but Ernie keeps turning him away because there is no time for visitors!  So yes, throughout the special, Ernie forbids a slowly dying Santa Claus from entering his house.  Finally, Bert puts an end to this madness and lets Santa inside.

You have made a powerful friend this year, Bert.  Ernie, a powerful enemy.

Ernie revitalizes Santa with a "Christmas nut" (see, now the squirrel segment makes sense) and Santa delivers their gifts: paper clips for Ernie and a rubber ducky for Bert!

...Yeah, they broke Santa Claus.

Why Is He the Most Important Muppet?  What Is the True Meaning of Christmas?

Santa Claus, as you may well know, is an amalgamation of several figures from various European histories and mythologies.  Despite qualms that Santa is a secular figure, his namesake, the gift-giving St. Nicholas, was a very devout Christian.  Combined with pagan traditions and lore, as well as popular works from modern authors (and Coca-Cola campaigns), Santa Claus emerged as the immortal, wish-granting, world-travelling demigod that he is today.

Every story has a different interpretation of the character, and this special highlights Santa's more human qualities.  He is an old man who can succumb to extreme temperatures.  He can suffer brain damage.  He is not as powerful as we once thought.

But at the heart of this story is the truth about Santa Claus and every character like him: he needs people  in order to survive.

Although it is Ernie that nearly sends him to an early grave, he is also the one who saves his life.  Santa may have all the best abilities in the world, but without people around to keep him in existence, he will die away.

Santa is the most well known fictional character that we as a species actually feel the need to convince younger generations that he is real.  There are a lot of reasons as for why this is the case (most of them financial), but none of them matter.  The fact that we can collectively decide to perpetuate a character's existence is astonishing.

What would happen if Santa Claus died?  It would have to be a conscious effort on humanity's part at this point to kill off this god among fictional men.  Ernie and Bert came close.  But fortunately, they are fictional too.

And Muppets never die.

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