So, we’ve all heard of Santa Claus, but has anyone – ANYONE out there heard of Thomas Nast? If so, congratulations – you’re a total nerd. If not, here’s why he’s important.

Born in 1840, this German’s mustache puts our Mysterious Mo Bros to shame. It’s rumoured he killed a man from 20 feet with that thing, but there’s no substantiating evidence to back that up (it’s believed the rumour started today in a Starbucks by me). You be the judge…

Safety goggles are required at all times around Thomas Nast

When he wasn’t picking mouldy food out of his beard, Thomas Nast liked to doodle here and there… he sorta created the whole Republican Elephant/Democratic Donkey that editorial cartoonists continue to rip off to this day. If Nast was here today we believe he would say, “Danke Schon for the royalties, you unoriginal arschgeiges!

But, he’s not. He died in 1902. But not before giving us one more very important sketch: Santa Claus.

Ahhh, fat, huggable, loveable Santa. Remember this image as you read on, it will help you get through it.

We owe the whole red-suite-beard (does this guy have a thing for beards or what!?!)-white-cuffs-hooker-boots image to him, because before Nast portrayed Santa as that fun-loving harmless old man, there was some seriously scary shit going on.

Santa began as Saint Nicholas of Myra, a Greek bishop who liked to give the stuff cluttering his basement to the 4th century’s poor folk. And while he was a giver and was called Saint Nicholas, he was not even close to our modern image of Santa Claus. In fact, he was thin and chiseled and has the same nose surgeon as Jodie Foster…

…but I think he looks more like Kobayashi from The Usual Suspects.

Then there’s Odin. Odin had some influence on the image of Santa in the olden days.

He could be your Grandpa! If your Grandpa had a penchant for creepy mutant horses.

Don’t be fooled by Odin/Merlin/Gandalf/Garden Gnome appearance – Odin led a hunting party on the back of an eight-legged horse through the sky. We put out carrots for the horse so this freakish mutant doesn’t eat us in our sleep.

Warning your kids to be good or this dude will come take them away could be considered child abuse.

And, of course, there’s Krampus. Krampus was Saint Nick’s companion, who frightens children in the first two weeks of December. He rattles chains and rings bells, and then spanks young girls’ bare butts with a birch rod. But boys are not exempt from this Christmas joy – Krampus carries a basket on his back to “carry away bad children and dump them into the pits of hell” (Wikipedia). People still dress up as Krampus in certain parts of Germany and run around scaring and birching and stuff so… you know… don’t go to Alpine Germany.

While not the nicest bedtime story, this could do wonders for our juvenile reform system.

With the so-scary-I-puked-my-pants images of Santa Claus, by the time 1881 rolled around is it any wonder that image of Nast’s was so joyfully embraced? The movie of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer terrified me as a child, but I’ll take Rudolph as Santa’s sidekick over being birched and carried away to the pits of hell, wouldn’t you?