Mrs. Claus

Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Claus sees her husband off on his journey in this 1919 postcard

Mrs. Claus is the wife of Santa Claus, the Christmas gift-bringer in North American Christmas tradition.

While Santa Claus himself emerged from the 1820s from a number of traditions of European folklore, Mrs. Claus has no precedent in folklore and is a literary creation by James Rees (1849), popularized by Katharine Lee Bates, appearing in her poem "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride" (1889). The character has since appeared in story, film, television and other media.



The gift-giving bishop St. Nicholas was never portrayed as having a wife, and only when he was transformed, via Sinterklaas, into the more secular Santa Claus in the early 19th century did a wife appear.

The wife of Santa Claus is first mentioned in the short story "A Christmas Legend" (1849), by James Rees, a Philadelphia-based Christian missionary.[1] In the story, an old man and woman, both carrying a bundle on the back, are given shelter in a home on Christmas Eve as weary travelers. The next morning, the children of the house find an abundance of gifts for them, and the couple is revealed to be not "old Santa Claus and his wife", but the hosts' long-lost elder daughter and her husband in disguise.[2]

Mrs. Santa Claus is mentioned by name in the pages of the Yale Literary Magazine in 1851, where the student author (whose name is given only as "A. B.") writes of the appearance of Santa Claus at a Christmas party:

[I]n bounded that jolly, fat and funny old elf, Santa Claus. His array was indescribably fantastic. He seemed to have done his best; and we should think, had Mrs. Santa Claus to help him.[3]

An account of a Christmas musicale at the State Lunatic Asylum in Utica, New York in 1854 included an appearance by Mrs. Santa Claus, with baby in arms, who danced to a holiday song.[4]

A passing references to Mrs. Santa Claus was made in an essay in Harper's Magazine in 1862;[5] and in the comic novel The Metropolites (1864) by Robert St. Clar, she appears in a woman's dream, wearing "Hessian high boots, a dozen of short, red petticoats, an old, large, straw bonnet" and bringing the woman a wide selection of finery to wear.[6]

The keeper of the naughty-or-nice ledger in "Lill's Travels in Santa Claus Land", 1878

A woman who may or may not be Mrs. Santa Claus appeared in the children's book Lill in Santa Claus Land and Other Stories by Ellis Towne, Sophie May and Ella Farman, published in Boston in 1878. In the story, little Lill describes her imaginary visit to Santa's office (not in the Arctic, incidentally):

"There was a lady sitting by a golden desk, writing in a large book, and Santa Claus was looking through a great telescope, and every once in a while he stopped and put his ear to a large speaking-tube.
"Presently he said to the lady, ‘Put down a good mark for Sarah Buttermilk. I see she is trying to conquer her quick temper.’
“‘Two bad ones for Isaac Clappertongue; he’ll drive his mother to the insane asylum yet.’"

Later, Lill's sister Effie ponders the tale:

Effie sank back in the chair to think. She wished Lill had found out how many black marks she had, and whether that lady was Mrs. Santa Claus—and had, in fact, obtained more accurate information about many things.

Much as in The Metropolites, Mrs. Santa Claus appears in a dream of the author E. C. Gardner in his article "A Hickory Back-Log" in Good Housekeeping magazine (1887), with an even more detailed description of her dress:

She was dressed for traveling and for cold weather. Her hood was large and round and red but not smooth, — it was corrugated; that is to say, it connsisted of a series of rolls nearly as large as my arm, passing over her head sidewise, growing smaller toward the back until they terminated in a big button that was embellished with a knot of green ribbon. Its general appearance was not unlike that of the familiar, pictorial beehive except that the rolls were not arranged spirally. The broad, white ruffle of her lace cap projected several inches beyond the front of the hood and waved back and forth like the single leaves of a great white poppy, as she nodded emphatically in her discourse.
Her outer garment was a bright colored plaid worsted cloak reaching to within about six inches of the floor. Its size was most voluminous, but its fashion was extremely simple. It had a wide yoke across the shoulders, into which the broad plain breadths were gathered; and it was fastened at the throat by a huge ornamented brass hook and eye, from which hung a short chain of round twisted links. Her right arm protruded through a vertical slit at the side of the cloak and she held in her hand a sheet of paper covered with figures. The left arm on which she carried a large basket or bag — I couldn't tell which — was hidden by the ample folds of the garment. Her countenance was keen and nervous, but benignant.

Mrs. Claus proceeds to instruct the architect Gardner on the ideal modern kitchen, a plan of which he includes in the article.[7]

Illustration from Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh-Ride, 1889

Santa Claus' wife made her most active appearance yet by Katherine Lee Bates in her poem "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride" (1889).[8] "Goody" is short for "Goodwife", i.e., "Mrs."[9]

In Bates' poem, Mrs. Claus wheedles a Christmas Eve sleigh-ride from a reluctant Santa in recompense for tending their toy and bonbon laden Christmas trees, their Thanksgiving turkeys, and their "rainbow chickens" that lay Easter eggs. Once away, Mrs. Claus steadies the reindeer while Santa goes about his work descending chimneys to deliver gifts. She begs Santa to permit her to descend a chimney. Santa grudingly grants her request and she descends a chimney to mend a poor child's tattered stocking and to fill it with gifts. Once the task is completed, the Clauses return to their Arctic home. At the end of the poem, Mrs. Claus remarks that she is the "gladdest of the glad" because she has had her "own sweet will".

In popular media

Since 1889, Mrs. Claus has been generally depicted in media as a fairly heavy-set, kindly, white-haired elderly female baking cookies somewhere in the background of the Santa Claus mythos. She sometimes assists in toy production, and oversees Santa's elves. She is sometimes called Mother Christmas[citation needed], and Mary Christmas has been suggested as her maiden name.[citation needed]

Her reappearance in popular media in the 1960s began with the children's book How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas, by Phyllis McGinley. Today, Mrs. Claus is commonly seen in cartoons, on greeting cards, in knick-knacks such as Christmas tree ornaments, dolls, and salt and pepper shakers, in storybooks, in seasonal school plays and pageants, in parades, in department store "Santa Lands" as a character adjacent to the throned Santa Claus, in television programs, and live action and animated films that deal with Christmas and the world of Santa Claus. Her personality tends to be fairly consistent; she is usually seen as a calm, kind, and patient woman, often in contrast to Santa himself, who can be prone to acting too exuberant.


Mrs. Claus has appeared as a secondary character in children's books about Santa Claus and as the main character in titles about herself.

  • Mrs. Santa Claus, Militant (one-act play) by Bell Elliott Palmer, 1914
  • The Great Adventure of Mrs. Santa Claus by Sarah Addington and Gertrude A. Kay, 1923
  • The Story of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and The Night Before Christmas by Alice and Lillian Desow Holland, 1946
  • How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas by Phyllis McGinley, 1963
  • Mrs. Santa Claus by Penny Ives, 1993
  • A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus by Jeannie Schick-Jacobowitz, 2003
  • The Story of Mrs. Santa Claus by Bethanie Tucker and Crystal McLaughlin, 2007
  • Mrs. Claus Takes A Vacation by Linas Alsenas, 2008
  • What Does Mrs. Claus Do? by Kate Wharton and Christian Slade, 2008


  • Mrs. Claus (played by Judy Cornwell) is also a character in 1985's Santa Claus: The Movie, where she played a vital role in the film's story. It was her idea to give presents only to good children.
  • The 2002 movie The Santa Clause 2 centers on Tim Allen's character being forced to marry in order to continue his role as Santa. The "Mrs. Clause" confirms why every Santa has had a Mrs. Claus, because it is part of the Santa Clause. His wife is Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell) who was the principal from Charlie's school, and in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, she deals with being Mrs. Claus, having a baby, and being separated from her family.


Mrs. Claus played a major role in several of Rankin/Bass' Christmas specials. In Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970), she is introduced as a teacher named Jessica, who first meets Santa Claus as a young man, when he's trying to illegally deliver toys to a town run by a despotic ruler. Assisting Santa, Jessica and Santa soon fall in love with each other, and marry in the nearby forest. In 1974's The Year Without a Santa Claus and the 2006 live action remake, Mrs. Claus played a large role, as she attempts to show Santa (who wishes to stay home that year for Christmas when he feels no one appreciates or believes in him anymore) that there's still some Christmas spirit left in the world. Mrs. Claus also made appearances in several other Rankin/Bass specials, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July; Santa calls her "Jessica" at one point in the latter, implying some kind of shared continuity.

The lady was also portrayed in a television musical, Mrs. Santa Claus (1996), played by Angela Lansbury, with songs by Jerry Herman. Neglected by her husband, she goes to New York in 1910, and gets involved in agitating for women's rights and against child labor in toy manufacturing. Of course, she gets to learn how "Santa misses Mrs. Claus", as the sentimental song lyrics have it.

One of Mrs. Claus's most unusual television appearances is in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Christmas special Billy and Mandy Save Christmas. In this story she is revealed to be a powerful vampiress who, angry that Santa leaves most of the work for her, turns him into a vampire so she can take a break (which is about the six or seventh time she's done so), when she gets the idea to try and take over the world before Billy reconciles them. Another unusual appearance is in the Robot Chicken Christmas Special, during which, in a Dragon Ball Z parody sketch, she gains powers from the North Pole's radiation, and becomes a giant monster that Goku, Gohan, and Rudolph must destroy.

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown's sister Sally writes to Santa and asks, "How is your wife?" Later, in It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, she writes Santa's wife herself, and, when Charlie Brown comments that some people call her "Mary Christmas," Sally congratulates her on choosing to keep her own surname. In Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales, Sally writes Santa Claus as "Samantha Claus", inadvertently thinking Samantha Claus is Santa Claus's wife.

Mrs Claus appears in A Chipmunk Christmas, where she buys Alvin a harmonica after he gives his old one to a sick boy. Her identity isn't revealed until the end, when Santa returns home and she greets him.

Boost Mobile created some controversy with an ad featuring Mrs. Claus in bed with a snowman. One version was briefly aired on late-night TV while two alternate versions were posted online.[10]

Ad Age had some commentary about the spot, including “This latest ad from Boost Mobile and agency 180, Los Angeles, features Mrs. Claus doing something very, very bad.“ [11]

Even Bill O'Reilly, CNN and a number of local TV news channels commented about the ads. It may perhaps be one of the first popular culture depictions of Mrs. Claus in a less than idealistic manner.


In contrast to her stereotypical portrayal, Mrs. Claus is portrayed as a woman bored with her relationship with Santa Claus in the song Sarabaya-santa from Jason Robert Brown's musical Songs for a New World.

In 1987, George Jones and Tammy Wynette released single Mr and Mrs Santa Claus, a love song sung by Jones and Wynette as Mr and Mrs Claus respectively.


  1. ^ James Rees, Mysteries of City Life, J. W. Moore, 1849, p. 1.
  2. ^ James Rees, Mysteries of City Life, J. W. Moore, 1849, p. 91.
  3. ^ "Holiday Week", The Yale Literary Magazine, vol. 17, December 1851, p. 82.
  4. ^ "Santa Claus", The Opal, vol. 4, no. 1, 1854, p. 27.
  5. ^ "Editor's Easy Chair", Harper's, vol. 24, no. 141, February 1862, p. 411.
  6. ^ Robert St. Clar, The Metropolites, New York: American News Company, 1864, p. 379.
  7. ^ E. C. Gardner, "A Hickory Back-Log", Good Housekeeping, vol. 4, no. 6, January 22, 1887, p. 125.
  8. ^ Penne L. Restad, Christmas in America: A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 148. ISBN 978-0195109801. Although Restad gives the publication year as 1899, most sources say the poem was published in 1889.
  9. ^ "Goodwife" and "Goody", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed.
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links

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