Thursday, March 5, 2015

Christmas Vs. Winter: a Semiotic Analysis

Since our article was on the subject of Christmas, it made me think of another Christmas tradition that can be analyzed semiotically. Since my family is Italian, Christmas is a big deal for all the important reasons, but we get picky about certain Christmas traditions. We are very traditional and conventional but there are some things we refuse to do that a lot of other people do. One example that comes to mind is actual Christmas decorations vs. snowmen and other wintery decorations. My mother doesn't necessarily hate snowmen, but she does not like them around Christmas time, frankly neither do I and the reason is because snowmen represent winter, not Christmas.
As you can see here, this is a Santa Claus figurine that just spells out Christmas. you could make the whole argument about how Christmas is about jesus, not santa but that is not what this is about. My mother would gladly put this decoration out because it shows a representation of Christmas, it is not tacky and it creates that whole christmasy feeling. Santa Claus is a Christmas tradition dating back to the third century. it has been a legend and it is said that it only happens on Christmas which is what makes it a Christmas tradition and gets kids excited for Christmas when they see a santa claus figurine. Even though you get to a certain age where you no longer believe in santa claus, most people wouldn't refuse to put out a santa claus decoration or a few around their house at Christmas time. Santa claus is mostly seen as an iconic Christmas character and the thing about santa clauses is that you wont see them at any other time of the year which is what makes it so special around Christmas time.

This snowman, however is not approved. Some people go all out and will put up giant snowmen on display, will have snowman ornaments for Christmas, maybe a sweater with a snowman on it that they wear on Christmas day and have gifts with snowman wrapping paper. But Snowmen really have nothing to do with Christmas. Talking to people about this subject gave me various results. Some people love snowmen around Christmas time, some people hate them, some would say that they only like snowmen if there is actually snow on the ground and it is a white Christmas, but being in new England, you would think that every Christmas would be a white Christmas but lately that has not been the case and it is a rarity that it will actually snow on Christmas. Some people don't mind snowmen regardless and one person told me that they understand that snowmen are more of a winter thing than a Christmas thing but if they have a Christmas feeling to them then its okay. like if they were wearing a Christmas scarf or had a thing of holly on their hat, which is fine, but talking to people who live down south or out west don't particularly care for it because if they get no snow at all, they could care less about snowmen and a lot of people would say that they wouldn't mind a snowman only if it was Frosty because that is considered a Christmas classic. It cannot be Jack Frost or Olaf from Frozen or an abominable snowman.
Santa Claus represents Christmas and decorations and figurines of Santa imply Christmas, whereas snowman, even if they are dressed for Christmas, can be up on display all winter, even after Christmas is over. So in my family, my mother will wait until after Christmas is over and after all the santa claus and other Christmas decorations are put away in storage before she brings out the winter snowman.
Another related topic is the so called "Christmas" songs, like jingle bells and let it snow, also have nothing to do with Christmas and don't mention or imply it, yet they are sung every year as a tradition. Not that there is anything wrong with that but it is something to think about.


  1. Not sure if I did mine entirely right, I might be missing something but at the moment cant think of what it is...

  2. Ok, you are definitely on the right track, but it's all kind of random, so it's not quite coming together. First off, I think focusing on a text is important. You could focus on Christmas decorations, santa, snowmen....but this kind of jumps around so it's hard to find the thread. Maybe if you focused on (for example) Santa, you could look at the different ways Santa is used (conflated with Jesus and Christmas; associated with winter and the season; tied to toys and consumerism) and compare Santa in different contexts to see how his meaning shifts. You could look at Santa across time to study how his suit, his weight, his personality change across the decades. All in all, what you have here seems like a brainstorm list of ideas, but not a real semiotic analysis of a sign. I am thinking that after reading others' posts and after our class today you may feel more confident, but if not, come chat with me!