Tuesday’s ad is for Cerveza Polar, from some time after the 1940s, since that’s when production began for the Polar brand in Venezuela. This ad appears to be for the Cuban market, so it may be pre-Castro since I doubt there were many beer ads after 1959 … or Christmas, for that matter.
Monday’s ad is for Miller High Life, from the 1950s. Even though I grew up in the “tradition-rich East” Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, having been in California for almost thirty years I’m a tad offended at Miller’s implication that there’s no traditions out West. But given that odd holiday spread that the lady in red is putting out, I’m not so sure about her having a “special touch of gracious elegance.”
Today’s infographic is entitled A Glance At St. Patrick’s Day Libations, and while it’s not Saint Patrick’s Day, it is the day in 1922 when Irish independence was recognized (having been declared April 24, 1916). Hey, cut me some slack, I’m filling in holes. It was created by Patrick DePuy for the holiday earlier this year for Prime Social Marketing.
While St. Nicholas is best known — in America, at least — for wearing red and white and giving presents to Children each December 25, he’s actually the patron saint for a number of professions, places and afflictions. His feast day is not actually Christmas Day, but almost three weeks earlier on December 6. That’s the reason why the holiday beer Samichlaus is brewed each year on this day. The person we associate with Christmas, Santa Claus, was based on Saint Nicholas, who was originally known (and still is in some places) as Bishop Nicholas of Myra.
Nicholas is the patron saint of brewers, among many others. He’s also the patron saint against imprisonment, against robberies, against robbers. And Nick’s the patron for apothecaries, bakers, barrel makers, boatmen, boot blacks, boys, brewers, brides, captives, children, coopers, dock workers, druggists, fishermen, Greek Catholic Church in America, Greek Catholic Union, grooms, judges, lawsuits lost unjustly, longshoremen, maidens, mariners, merchants, penitent murderers, newlyweds, old maids, parish clerks, paupers, pawnbrokers, perfumeries, perfumers, pharmacists, pilgrims, poor people, prisoners, sailors, scholars, schoolchildren, shoe shiners, spinsters, students, penitent thieves, travellers, University of Paris, unmarried girls, and watermen. Places he’s the patron for are Apulia, Italy; Avolasca, Italy; Bardolino, Italy; Bari, Italy; Cammarata, Sicily, Italy; Cardinale, Italy; Cas Concos, Spain; Creazzo, Italy; Duronia, Italy; Fossalto, Italy; Gagliato, Italy; Greece; La Thuile, Italy; Lecco, Italy; Limerick, Ireland; Liptovský Mikulás, Slovakia; Lorraine; Mazzano Romano, Italy; Mentana, Italy; Miklavž na Dravskem polju, Slovenia; Naples, Italy; Portsmouth, England; Russia; Sassari, Italy; Sicily; Is-Siggiewi, and Malta.
He also has many names around the world, such as Baba Chaghaloo, Father Christmas, Joulupukki, Kanakaloka, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Papa Noël, Santa Claus, and Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man” or “Nikolaus”), to name just a few.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Saint Nicholas (March 15, 270 – December 6, 346) is the common name for Nicholas of Myra, a saint and Bishop of Myra (in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and is now commonly identified with Santa Claus. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was the custom in his time. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nicholas of Bari.
The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honoured by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, and children, and students in Greece, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro. He is also the patron saint of Barranquilla, Bari, Amsterdam, Beit Jala, and Liverpool. In 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari. So beloved is Saint Nicholas by Russians, one commonly heard saying is that “if God dies, at least we’ll still have St. Nicholas.”
The American image of Santa Claus in red and white has more to do with marketing than anything else. I wrote about this in The Santa Hypocrisy a couple of years ago when the Shelton Brothers were in hot water from several states who tried to tell them Santa Claus on a beer label threatened the American way of life and especially the impressionable young kiddies who would all be led down the path to underage drinking and alcoholism because Santa was depicted on a beer label. It was an utterly ridiculous position and they ultimately backed down, but it’s indicative of our puritan hang-ups as a culture and our general paternalism where we believe everyone needs to be protected. And in retrospect I can now see how the “institutionalized demonization of alcohol” creates the conditions for such decisions. Remember the message? “Alcohol is evil. No one can be trusted with it.” When that’s the underlying assumption, you create rules for what can and can’t be displayed on a label that are way beyond reason; standards no other products have to follow because they’re not seen as inherently evil.
But before the 20th century and in other parts of the world, Santa Claus was and still is depicted in many different ways and in various colors. Father Christmas, for example, is often seen wearing a green robe, as in the British Isles he’s more associated with nature and the old Celtic religions. The yule log, Christmas tree, wreaths, mistletoe and many other features we take for granted during the holidays do not have direct Christian origins, but were appropriated from pagan religions in order to make the transition to Christianity easier for the masses to make. Personally, I love a green Santa Claus because it reminds me of hops, and a Santa that stands for hops is one I can get behind.
Few American beer labels show Santa precisely because of our peculiar brand of paternalism and the label laws spawned by our institutionalized demonization of alcohol. Santa’s Private Reserve, from Rogue in Oregon, is one of the few I can think of year after year. Most, not surprisingly, come from abroad, where people take a more reasonable approach to both the holidays and alcohol. There’s the famous Santa’s Butt from Ridgeway Brewing in England, but also Pickled Santa from the Hop Back Brewery and Austria’s Samichlaus is translated as “Santa Claus.”
Why does it seem like we’re the only uptight nation on Earth when it comes to this silly issue. In Hong Kong, a giant Santa Claus is shown with a mug of beer, and no one seems to be that concerned. Try putting something like that up here, and all hell would break loose. We’re the only country complaining that there’s a “War on Christmas,” as stupid a notion as ever there was one, especially in a nation where those who celebrate Christmas constitute the vast majority.
The point is if the church can have a patron saint of brewing, why do religious people object to St. Nicholas being on beer labels? Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for brewers to want to place their patron saint on their beer?
Throughout Europe, Monks not only kept alive the method of brewing beer but improved techniques for making it. A Benedictine nun in Germany, Hildegard von Bingen, is most likely responsible for the introduction of hops in beer. Religion and brewing are intertwined throughout history and, in every place except the United States, that continues to be the case. Why? What about our particular religiosity makes us incapable of seeing that and reconciling it? Why is it seemingly acceptable for Santa Claus to be used to sell everything under the sun … except alcohol. Santa sells cigarettes, soda pop, fast food and pretty much everything else with capitalistic glee yet alcohol is the corrupting influence? That’s going too far somehow? Please.
That Santa Claus only appeals to children is usually the rallying cry of the buffoons who complain about this sort of thing, but a survey of pop culture will reveal that St. Nick is used in all manner of adult contexts. Kris Kringle, like the spirit of Christmas itself, belongs to all of us, not just children. There’s no doubt that I love seeing Christmas through the fresh eyes of my children, their innocence and wonder adds a new dimension to my enjoyment of the season. But I loved the holidays as much before I was a father and after I was an adult, too.
That St. Nicholas appeals to wide array of people should be obvious from the huge number of groups and places that consider him their patron. When so many look to him for comfort in such a varied number of ways, how can anyone say what he is or what he isn’t, where he’s appropriate or where he’s not? They can’t of course, despite neo-prohibitionists and our government’s attempts to the contrary. As the patron saint of brewers, Santa Claus is, and ought to be, perfectly at home on a bottle of beer.
There’s also a wealth of information about the real Santa Claus at the Saint Nicholas Center online.
Wednesday’s ad is another for Rheingold Beer, this one from 1955, and features Miss Rheingold from that year, Nancy Woodruff. In this ad, she’s out caroling and brought a buddy along to hold the lamp so she could read the music in the cold winter night. He looks like he’s paying attention to the music, but she appears to be looking at us, while ignoring the book of Christmas carols she’s holding. Maybe she has them all memorized?
Tuesday’s ad is for Rheingold Beer, from 1944, and features Miss Rheingold from that year, Jane House. It looks like she’s wearing a tree skirt for a dress and best I can figure she’d essentially holding up a sign (or perhaps a calendar?) saying “Seasons Greetings,” which is also the tagline for the ad. Seasons Greetings? Isn’t this ad over fifty years before the wingnuts started claiming there was a war on Christmas if you didn’t say Merry Christmas? Where was Bill O’Reilly when this was going down? Seasons Greetings everybody.
Monday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1958, and begins Holiday Time, when we’ll feature holiday ads throughout the month. This one is from Bud’s “Where There’s Life” series and shows a happy woman whose face is bright and aglow (light from the yule log perhaps?) holding an open jewelry box. Was the necklace she’s wearing possibly what had been in the box only moments before? An unseen is pouring her a fresh beer, while a large ornament just behind her is shaped like a watch and reads “Holiday Time.” What do you think Bud was trying to say in this ad? Subtle.
I thought this was a fun little video, created by Heather Arment of Seattle, Washington, for an advent calendar of beer bottles. Her animated video is entitled The Legend Behind Beer-y Christmas. And since Advent just started on Sunday, this would be a very cool way to celebrate it.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell if it ever actually was a real product or not. The website, BeeryChristmas.com is down for the count. But they obviously spent a lot on the design of the packaging, which was done by Dustin Wallace, and Arment did another video on who the beer advent box works.
Of course, in the end, they were trying to sell a cardboard box, which gives it something of a pet rock vibe.
Perhaps if they had sold them full, but it might be cool to fill one yourself. Although that is a tough commitment for a gift. It requires that the person giving it knows what to fill it with, then has to find the beer to put in it. I think that’s why the pre-packed gift boxes sell so well. All the hard work is already done. All you have to do it buy it.
But I have to confess getting one like this would be a great gift.
Hmm, I wonder if in fall of 2011 this ever saw the light of day? It looks like it didn’t but I subsequently discovered that Heather Arment was also the inventor, and she’s still trying to get them produced through Quirky, which is a website for inventors and their … ahem … quirky inventions. People submit their ideas, and get them posted on the quirky site, and people vote on them. Ideas which get enough votes go to the manufacturing stage and are created and sold, also through the Quirky website, but also at select retailers, too. It looks like her idea for the beer advent box may actually become a reality, though probably not in time for this year’s holidays, because the web page currently says that the “idea has been placed under Expert Review,” which suggests it’s passed one hurdle is on to the next step in their process. So now you know what to get me for the holidays next year.