When we sing about “Peace on Earth” while we destroy cities, buildings, and lives with horrendous weapons, we continue to evoke the message of love and kindness with the image of a kindly old man in a red suit.
It seems America’s bloodiest years brought us the image of Santa Claus.
 The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” introduced Santa Claus to America, but it was a political satirist who gave us the image of that jolly old man in a red suit.
Thomas Nast, who also first introduced the symbols that are still used to represent  the Republican party as an elephant and the Democrats as a donkey, also came up with the symbol of Santa Claus as a white-bearded jolly old man.
Nast was an ardent Union supporter during the Civil War and used his artistic talents to promote his Union views.
On Jan. 3, 1863, the cover of Harper’s Weekly, one of the most widely read periodicals of
the Civil War  period, featured Santa Claus on its cover.  
Thus began the modern symbol of what we now call Santa Claus.
The picture, drawn by the noted illustrator Thomas Nast, featured Santa with his reindeer and sleigh, but he wasn't wearing that red fur-lined suit.
He wore a star-spangled outfit with red and white striped pants and a blue jacket with white stars on it.
Santa was sitting atop his sleigh handing out presents to soldiers in blue uniforms.
Santa is obviously not wishing “good will to all” however, because in his hands is a dancing puppet of Confederate President Jefferson Davis with a string tied around his neck, and old Jeff seems to be kicking mightily at his fate.
Inside the magazine pages are more illustrations of war scenes. A lonely soldier sits by a campfire looking at pictures of his family while his wife at home kneels in prayer.
Images of battlefields and tombstones appear, but there are also pictures of Santa climbing down a chimney and another of him tossing presents out over a Union campground as he soars above in his sleigh.
Nast was a Union supporter, but Santa Claus was also a character in the Confederacy, although in a very different way.
Wartime shortages brought a very austere Christmas season to the South, and often Santa didn’t show up, so parents explained to their children that the Union blockade had kept Santa from traveling to the South.
One slave in a southern home even told children that Santa wouldn’t appear because he had been shot by the Yankees.
A Richmond Newspaper blasted Santa Claus as an immigrant from England who had nothing to do with Virginia hospitality and Christmas merry-making.
The Civil War would not be the last time Santa was enlisted to help the war effort.
During World War I Santa became more like Uncle Sam as our government called upon him to sell war bonds and to entertain the troops.
When  Pearl Harbor was attacked just weeks before Christmas in 1941, Santa was immediately deployed to help the war effort.
Posters appeared of the jolly old elf in his red suit, hawking war bonds, and cautioning us to watch what we say as “loose lips sink ships.”
The War Production Board produced  a poster of a jolly Santa Claus with a rifle over his shoulder.
Gone is the red suit and hat. It is replaced by an olive drab uniform and a helmet and declared that “Santa Claus Has Gone to War.”
Another poster produced by the same organization shows  Santa with airplanes and munitions as he calls out
“Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Fight.” Isn’t it ironic that we use a symbol of love to promote war?