They really loved the idea of Santa riding a rocket in the 1950's. It was, after all, the Atomic Age. People in the 50's lapped up anything associated with the "space age"; futurism was in vogue. So, it was only natural that this "technophilia" would be reflected in their conception of Christmas.
It's always struck me as odd that the people of the 50's would buy into futurism and the utopian "world of tomorrow" at a time when technology had never been so deadly! With the advent of nuclear bombs, we could now wipe out all life on earth (except for cockroaches and Keith Richards) with the touch of a button. And yet, at the same time, futurism and techno worship was in full bloom. Go figure.
New Zealand Christmas Parade circa 1962 (image source)
Call it optimism, call it ignorance, or call it a defense mechanism - for whatever reason, the Space Age was "in" and folksy tradition was "out". Real evergreens were quickly replaced by synthetic Christmas trees in all varieties of strange colors - strawberry pink and lemon yellow were common. This Utopian vision continued into the sixties, until the hippie movement brought naturalism back in vogue. Plastics were "out" by the time Woodstock rolled around. In fact, plastics were mocked in an infamous scene in The Graduate as a negative symbol of the past, a symbol of the fake synthetic life offered by the WWII generation.
Let's take a short trip back before the Boomers decided plastics were bad. Back when The Jetsons lifestyle seemed just a few short years away. Back before technological skepticism took hold. Back when Santa drove a rocket ship!Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?
Christmas decorations, 1965
Here's some mood music to read this post by. "White Christmas" by Esquivel, the king of 1950's space age pop, was released in 1959. The album is hard to come by, but the song can be found on the rerelease - Merry Xmas from the Space Age Bachelor Pad.
|Esquivel - White Christmas .mp3|
|Found at bee mp3 search engine|
Galaxy Magazine (195_) image source
This little video taken from Arthur Ignatowski fits this post perfrectly. "Take a Ride on Santa's Rocket"