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Crucified Santa
image According to urban legend there was once a department store in Japan that, shortly after the war, displayed a smiling crucified Santa at Christmas, mistakenly believing that that was how Santa was supposed to be displayed. In different versions of the legend the crucified Santa was either a small miniature or an 'enormous effigy'. There's no evidence that the Japanese crucified Santa ever existed. But people here in America have, of course, deliberately stuck Santas up on crosses. Here's an article that refers to a guy who delighted his neighbors back in 2002 by placing a crucified Santa in his front yard:
A unique holiday display in Boise has prompted mixed reactions from neighbors and passersby. Residents of a home in the 6300 block of Ustick Road have erected a cross with a full-size, stuffed Santa Claus attached. Chili Ciluaga got the idea to build the crucified Santa in his front yard while watching a TV commercial. He said the display conveys the message that the holiday season has become over-commercialized.
Categories: Religion, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 03, 2004
Comments (18)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
I LOVE this town!!
Posted by Boise, Idaho!  on  Fri Dec 03, 2004  at  04:55 PM
Reminds me of a similar controversial yard display in Detroit for this year's Halloween. Did anyone else see this story? A couple had a Frankenstein dummy they had put in gruesome situations on their yard every Halloween for several years--one year he was in a guillotine, the next in stocks. This year they put him hanging by a noose. Well, an African-American radical activist group decided that since the homeowners were white, and Frankenstein was being hung, the display must be racist, so they raided the yard and tore down the scene.

Absurdly, rather than feeling entitled to outrage that their property was invaded and their possessions destroyed, the family was reduced to sending out apologies to the activist group for unintentionally 'offending' them.

The point: see the crucified Santa while you can. If he really is on display, I doubt he will be up for very long. A bunch of hypersensitive stupids with persecution fantasies are sure to raise a stink and demand his removal any minute now.
Posted by Barghest  on  Fri Dec 03, 2004  at  09:44 PM
Hmm. I'd actually have to side with the people who tore down the Frankenstein lynching. Could that family really have been so clueless that they didn't know what the image of a lynching means in American society? A crucified Santa seems like it's just generically spoofing christianity and commercialism. But having a guy being lynched in your front yard (even if it's only Frankenstein) evokes a very specific and historically recent symbol of violence and hatred towards one group.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Dec 04, 2004  at  12:00 PM
Nobody has the right to not be offended, Alex. However, people DO have the right to not have their property trashed. And in any case, I think free speech is just ever so slightly more important than some minority group not having its feelings hurt by imagined attacks.
Posted by John  on  Sat Dec 04, 2004  at  08:08 PM
The responsible thing would have been to talk to the family. Tell them 'hey, you've got a mock lynching in your yard... Do you realize how this will be interpreted?' But generally, I don't think having mock lynchings, burning crosses, or swastikas in your yard is protected as 'free speech'. I recall a case about a situation like that a year or two ago. Some guy had a burning cross in his yard and they made him take it down.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sun Dec 05, 2004  at  01:53 AM
Given that Frankenstein's Monster (I'm assuming it was the MONSTER, rather than Dr. Frankenstein) had been previously shown in stocks, which has been previously used as a punishment for an actual crime...the Frankenstein's Monster in a noose should not have made people assume the hanging was illegal. A lynching is to be put to death by a mob without legal action. Now, if this group considered the family to be a 'mob' then I can see where they would have been upset (although I don't agree with them)...BUT because the use of stocks and guillotine which in the past were used to punish people for (actual) crimes cannot assume that the hanging was done without legal action. Let people celebrate what they will! My family has always had Christmas decorations up... My husband on the other hand is refusing to let me even mention Santa to our daughter. He WILL be changing his mind of course, because I think he's being a big idiot...
Posted by Maegan  on  Sun Dec 05, 2004  at  08:46 AM
The only reason it was described as being a lynching was because of the outrageous reaction that was attributed to it. The monster was in their yard, swinging from the gallows; think it is someone looking for something to complain about calling this a lynching scene.
They broke the law, plain and simple, over something they perceived as a wrong. And the police were they watching while it happened.
Posted by Ozymandios  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  03:10 AM
Okay, I seem to be the only one who feels sympathetic towards the people who tore the Frankenstein/lynching thing down. I guess it's because when I picture a yard scene like that the first thing that comes to mind is the 'strange fruit' of the South (which instantly sets me off to think that somebody would be mocking that or seeming to promote it). It just seems (to me) like such an obvious connection to make, so much so that I have a hard time believing that other people wouldn't immediately make the same connection. But evidently that's not the case.

It must be all those gruesome civil rights movement/American history movies my history teacher made us watch in high school.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  10:59 AM
Oh, I groaned when I read that the Japanese story was a myth! I lived in Japan from 1997 for about 3 and a half years. My flatmate told me that her colleague had told her the crucified Santa story. It was presented to me as if it had happened that season. Now I learn it has been doing the rounds for years.

Just shows you how alive these stories are, how sustainable...but I feel so gullible!
Posted by Pixie  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  12:40 PM
What strange fruit?
Posted by Maegan  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  01:06 PM
Sorry. Obscure reference. It's that song by Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit. Bodies hanging from trees.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  01:53 PM
Ahh...I'm enlightened.
Posted by Maegan  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  02:27 PM
"A crucified Santa seems like it's just generically spoofing christianity and commercialism."
I wouldn't interpret it as a spoof of sincere Christianity, but as a commentary on people who put a Christian overlay on decidedly un-Christian celebrations of greed, consumerism, and egocentrism-- all of which are the opposite of the Christian gospel.
Santa Claus, not Jesus, is the Messiah most people in the U.S. are really devoted to these days, and their "Lord's Prayer" is "Give me the toys I want and I promise to be good."
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Dec 06, 2004  at  07:05 PM
Come, now. I'm a fairly liberal guy, but in order to see Frankenstein's monster's hanging as a racist slur, you have to make the following absurd connections:

1. That any hanging is a lynching, and is ALWAYS DELIBERATELY meant to be taken that way; and

2. That Frankenstein's monster is clearly and always symbolic of people of African descent.

Both preconceptions are absurd and outrageous. Hanging has been a method of execution for thousands of years. Why not assume Frankenstein was guilty of cattle rustling or witchcraft? They hung the 'witches' during the Salem Witch Trials, after all, which would be a much more obvious historical connection to make, given that it was Halloween.

Furthermore, and this is the fun point--it was freakin' Frankenstein! He's very distinctive--flat top head, green skin, bolts in the neck. He's a very well-known and popular, cartoonish character; there's no way for a REASONABLE person to mistake him for a serious effigy of a human being. If someone put up a poster of Frankenberry being kicked right in his mahshmallow sweeties, would you assume it was a thinly veiled attack on YOU? If you would, then you have some kind of weird problem where you identify yourself with ridiculous cartoon characters when that's clearly not what's intended.

If the hung figure had been something that actually had a symbolic connection to racist concepts towards people of African descent, then fine, tear it down. If it had looked anything like a black man, or like the horrible minstrel-show caricature of a black man, or even a monkey or ape of some sort, or any other creature or character that evoked the unfair and hateful slurs of the past, fine. But no well-adjusted person will see Frankenstein--FRANKENSTEIN!--and automatically assume he's meant to represent himself.

If the family lived in Montreal and put Frankie in a guillotine, would the Francophones be justified in storming their yard and tearing it down, since it 'clearly evokes' the favored method of execution during the French Revolution? No, you'd probably rightly see that as an absurd leap to make. Well, this one's just as absurd, you just have to think about it from the viewpoint of a reasonable adult person, and not the viewpoint of a hypersensitive crackpot with persecution fantasies.

It is not a crime to put up halloween decorations. It is a crime to break through someone's fence, invade their yard, and destroy their property, however.
Posted by Barghest  on  Tue Dec 07, 2004  at  09:22 PM
Barghest, you're right. It was just a Frankenstein monster. They shouldn't have attacked the house. But what I'm saying is that lynching has very special significance to the black community. And the image of a body hanging from a tree seems to scream 'lynch mob' even more than a body hanging from a gallows would, for some reason. So given that Detroit has a very large black population, the family really should have thought twice before putting that up in their yard. It's like if a family in New York City put a Frankenstein monster in a gas chamber in their front yard. It could be interpreted innocently, but I'm sure a lot of Jewish people would take one look at it and understandably think it was some kind of reference to the Holocaust.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Dec 08, 2004  at  11:28 AM
I just don't think that's a reasonable connection for sane people to make. Heck, by saying this:

>>>And the image of a body hanging from a tree seems to scream 'lynch mob' <<< yourself even point out that you need a MOB to portray a lynching. The display was just Frankie hanging from a tree--there was not a mob of other Halloween characters standing around with torches or clubs, therefore there was no lynch mob portrayed, therefore no credible basis for seeing it as a lynching. Ironically, the only mob associated with the whole incident was--the protestors.

It would be like seeing Frankie with a bullethole in his head and assuming it was a display of a firing squad, even though there are no shooters with rifles to be seen. Quick, take it down before a Mormon gets offended!

Bottom line: it wasn't a lynching, it wasn't portrayed as a lynching, and in the context of previous years' displays, we know it was never intended as a lynching. If a person gets offended by things he imagines that aren't part of reality, that's his damned problem, and nobody owes him anything. This is just a case of a small group of overly sensitive people with a victim mentality losing their minds. We who are sane and reasonable shouldn't have to tiptoe through life, terrified that we might accidentally offend delusional nitwit jerks who see hatred and terror in the simplest and most innocent of Rorschach-style images. Screw 'em.
Posted by Barghest  on  Wed Dec 08, 2004  at  09:34 PM
>>If the family lived in Montreal and put Frankie in a guillotine, would the Francophones be justified in storming their yard and tearing it down, since it 'clearly evokes' the favored method of execution during the French Revolution?<<
Be a bit weird - Montreal had been British for 30 years at the time of the French Revolution. Maybe in New Orleans?
Posted by Mark Bellis  on  Mon Sep 01, 2008  at  09:38 AM
This is an actual thing. Perhaps the Santa figure is a hoax, but I saw with my own eyes, in Japan (around 2001-2002), Christmas cards with a crucified Santa on it. Presents at the bottom of the cross and everything. One of the most bizarre ideas ever.
Posted by josh medsker  on  Tue Sep 04, 2012  at  11:56 AM
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