Dakota Datebook

Santa Surprise

Friday, December 26, 2008

 

Well, it’s the day after Christmas. The presents have all been delivered, the big man himself is home at the North Pole, and Santa suits worn by ‘helpers’ across the country are being returned to their boxes and rental shops, until next year.

But on this date in 1913, there was one Santa suit that would not, and could not, be saved.

This suit was worn by Christ Sandland of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Christ had played Santa at a party at the home of N. H. Coddlington in Minot on Christmas Day.

Just imagine: The kids were gathered around the Christmas tree, gleefully waiting for jolly old St. Nick. There was a swish of red and white, the scent of cookies, and suddenly-there he stood, Santa himself, happy and hearty and ho-ho-ho-ing with all the joy of the Christmas season.

“It’s Santa!” the kids shouted gleefully. Santa, egged on by the happy children, started to shake like a bowl full of jelly. With a twinkle in his eye, he began to act goofy and pull pranks, using the children’s excitement to get the party really started.

But there were some dangers back then that are rare now, and it was one of those dangers that caught Santa off-guard.

While having fun fooling around for the kids, “Santa” got a little too close to the candles on the tree. Without a moment’s notice, his entire costume, including his mask, lit up, becoming a mass of flames.
The paper reported: “When they saw Santa Claus enveloped in flames, a crowd of 30 young people, mostly children, became panic stricken and shouting in terror, ran from the room.”

Luckily enough, Mr. Coddlington and some of the older kids were able to put out Santa’s fire with blankets-and then, they put out the tree, which was also aflame. And also luckily, Christ Sandland, though burned, was alright, though they feared for a time that he would lose his sight. He did lose his eyebrows, though. And the suit was quite burnt.

After Christ was relatively safe and in medical care, Mr. Coddlington returned and handed out presents, and then the party broke up, too.

It is certain that nothing could top a flaming Santa Claus.

By Sarah Walker
Sources:
Bismarck Daily Tribune, Friday, January 2, 1914
Minot Daily Optic, Saturday, December 27, 1913

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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