The Victorian era sure knew how to celebrate Christmas. Many of the antique Christmas illustrations I curate and collect come from this particular time period because so much media was produced. The late 1880s also popularized the activity of sending festive Christmas cards to loved ones and soon there were more unique Christmas illustrations and designs popping up from Europe to the U.S. This gallery is curated from my own physical collection of copyright-free antique illustrations and postcards.
To make easy-breezy Christmas decor, you can use these free vintage Santa Claus illustrations to make paper doll style garland for the tree, use as decoupage material for vintage Christmas crafts, or create classic Christmas ornaments. Learn more interest tidbits about vintage Santa Claus below!
Fun Facts about Vintage Santa Claus!
- The American image and story of Santa Claus is most closely related to the Dutch version of Santa, Sinterklaas or Sint Nikolass.
- An 1892 Christmas poem titled “A Visit from St. Nicolas” helped cement the image and story of today’s modern-day Santa Claus
- The idea of Santa Claus comes from Pagan, old Christian and Catholic, Scandinavian, Dutch, German, and old English stories
- The first reference to Santa Claus, or Saint Nicolas can be traced to 280 Turkey
- Revered for his generosity and kindness, legends formed about a man who gave away all his wealth and roamed the countryside helping impoverished communities.
- In legend, he became known as a “protector of children”. One legend even tells of a time when St. Nicolas saved two sisters from being sold into slavery
- By the Renaissance era, Saint Nicolas was the most popular and celebrated saint in Europe, with a huge feast day dedicated in his honor on December 6th
- Santa Claus, or Saint Nicolas, finally entered American popular culture in the late 1700s when Dutch immigrants’ celebrations for Saint Nicolas began to be documented
- Around the early 1800s, Santa Claus woodcuts were being made and distributed by the New York Historical Society
- By the 1840s, Newspapers devoted full sections to Christmas shopping with Santa Claus marketing