Maple Grove Man is 1880s Santa
Doug Ernst from Maple Grove is Santa Claus from the year 1880 at Three Rivers Park District’s The Landing during Folkways of the Holidays. Ernst shares the history of Santa Claus with visitors young and old during the December event.
“I am actually wearing a Victorian-era suit and in that time, Christmas is changing,” explains Doug Ernst. “In 1889, there is a movement toward commercialism and Santa becomes a bit of an advertising tool.”
Ernst interacts with visitors by talking about being on the nice list and what’s on children’s wish lists. But he also talks to visitors about Christmas traditions and how the image of Santa Claus has changed over the years.
A step back in time
The Landing, visitors can discover how 19th century Minnesotans established their lives on the frontier, on farms, and in villages. The Three Rivers Park District park is open at various points during the year and is particularly festive during Folkways of the Holidays in December.
Much like today, immigrants who came to settle in America in 1889 brought their traditions with them. Folkways honors the traditions of settlers who built homes in the Minnesota River Valley during the 1800s, by decorating and interpreting each cabin or house in a different ethnic tradition. You can learn about the celebrations of French Canadians, Moravians, Norwegians, and more.
Pauline Bold interprets life in an 1889 Swedish home, where Santa doesn’t visit. Instead, the home believes in St. Lucia’s Day and they have a tomte.
“We have a Yule tomte,” explains Bold. “He comes around and asks if there are good children in the house. If they are, they get a present.”
Folkways of the Holidays runs on weekends until Christmas.