December 25, 2010

The Twelve Posts of Santa, Part XII: The Most Wonderful Santa Claus Of All

We've studied Santa Claus in English (twice, even!), French, Italian, Polish, German, Spanish, Dutch and a handful of other languages. We even mapped references to various accompanying figures who dole out the punishments so that Santa doesn't have to.

But which of these representations of Santa Claus is the most prevalent? According to our tallies, plain ole Santa Claus is still the most wonderful of them all, as one might expect. But when comparing references to the top 10 versions of Santa Claus, a spatial mosaic of Christmassy cheer is evident, with each version of Santa existing in a somewhat clearly defined region, but with plenty of overlap. Just because references to Santa Claus are the most prevalent doesn't mean he can't coexist with alter-egos Père Noël, Weihnactshmann and Sinterklaas. Indeed, they seem to be getting along just fine.
Whether one is a Christian or not, the prevalence of Christmas celebrations around the world - not to mention the rampant consumerism built up around it - has made Santa Claus a lovable figure no matter what one believes, or even where one lives. But as we've shown in the eleven posts leading up to this finale, people celebrate Christmas differently in different places (and why wouldn't they?). But so what? What does mapping references to Santa Claus in Google Maps have to do with anything?

Like all Floatingsheep maps, we're attempting to connect the daily, lived practices of people to digital representations of those practices. By seeing that Polish Christmas characters show up almost exclusively in Poland, and similarly for any other country, it's easy to see how, while imperfect, the digital representations yielded by Google Maps are very much reflective of the many people's offline realities.

No matter what you each may believe, a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

p.s. see you in the new year!

1 comment:

  1. As I was reading through your posts, the question that popped into my head was, what would be the distrubution of each of the "European" names for Santa in the USA? Would there be a lot of Google searches for the Polish "Gwiazdor" and "Święty Mikołaj" near the Chicago area, for instance? Or Père Noël near Quebec and the nearest American cities? Just some food for thought for next year! Keep up the great work!

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