The first thing that comes to mind — as it often should, really — is Eartha Kitt.
Santa baby, just slip a Sable under the tree for me
Been an awful good girl
But even before Eartha graced us with this absolutely iconic cheeky Christmas tune in 1953, the concept of Santa being something of a sex symbol was far from unique . In fact, for decades, while many people have assumed that Christmas only comes once a year, a whole host of pin-up idols and pulp masters have made sure that it stays coming year round.
Sexy themed costumes are nothing new nowadays, of course. You can’t turn a corner out in public during the average Halloween without seeing a sexy version of every municipal job there is, a few cats, and occasionally a very leggy ear of corn. But long after jack-o-lanterns have been thrown in the bin and the candy has all been eaten, one costume acts as a holly jolly breath of fresh air into the other holiday season — the Sexy Santa.
Now many people who think about it for too long may find themselves asking questions — “Is she a hot girl version of Santa himself?” “Is she Santa’s daughter?” “Is she meant to be Santa’s saucy wife?” “Are elves getting more cheeky and adult these days?” — but with little to no history surrounding the origin of Provocative Per Noel, these questions remain hilariously unanswered and, frankly, not cared about.
What we do know, however, is that Salacious St. Nick has been a staple of horny pin-up/Christmas enthusiasts for almost 100 years, with the first of note being none other than the voluptuous monster, Joan Crawford. Posing with all legs and a flapper pout on top of a chimney —sans wire-hanger, thankfully — Crawford may very well have been the first to threaten the idea of Santa coming for you if you’ve been naughty.
From there, there was no turning back — with stars like Bette Davis, Virginia Gray, the incomparably talented cheesecake perfection that was Cyd Charisse, and even the high-kicking Rockettes during the 1950 Radio City Christmas Spectacular, rolling through the early 20th century as Sultry Sinterklaas. But most iconically — and with particular thanks to someone whom I’d normally never thank in my life — Hugh Hefner’s 1955 Bettie Page Christmas cover was what truly brought about the bizarre cultural embrace.
Much to the chagrin of forcefully repressed housewives everywhere, Page’s 1955 Playboy Bunny Holiday issue became something of a must-have in American households, with over 5 million copies circulation at it’s peak point. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Playboy was a pivotal point in the story of Kinky Kris Kringle.
Since her birth on the pages of glossy — and possibly sticky; we don’t judge — magazines of the early 20th century, Sexy Santa has lived on in our hearts and in our heads through celebrities, Victoria’s Secret sales, and yes— even the abomination that is SantaCon.
Long live Sexy Santa. With her back-seamed Christmas stockings, comely baubles, and unseasonably short hemlines, may she keep Christmas alive for us always.