On the heels of Christmas, all I’ve been hearing about are presents, presents, presents. I have a lot of friends with children, so I’m hearing about everything from Mickey Mouse toys to brand new cars (you know, the necessary things that children of all ages need to survive.) With all the talk of material things, I’ve been thinking about what Christmas is all about. I’m sure I’m supposed to say it’s about Jesus, and it is, but that’s not what I think about when I think about such an amazing holiday.
I think about Mr. Bingle.
Mr. Bingle is a snowman who came to life thanks to the vision of a window decorator employed by Maison Blanche department store (which was originally located on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans). After its creation in 1948, the miniature snowman’s popularity grew to reach more than just New Orleans. Eventually, however, the Maison Blanche chain closed, leaving Mr. Bingle out of sight for a short period of time. The heavens blessed us when Dillard’s took over the familiar New Orleans icon and he resides specifically with us, right where he belongs. Each year, Mr. Bingle’s presence on the side of the department store building is always a clear sign that Christmas was on its way. But in my house, Mr. Bingle was a clear sign that my Grandmother was around.
For as long as I can remember, my grandmother was employed by Maison Blanche, so Mr. Bingle was a huge part of our childhood with her. We always had a Mr. Bingle stuffed animal in all of our houses at holiday time and we always read the story of Mr. Bingle (which is written below).
Since my grandmother’s passing 10 years ago (wow, that’s a long time,) you can find some kind of Mr. Bingle paraphernalia in each of her eight grandchildren’s homes. As a matter of fact, I have a stuffed Mr. Bingle that stays out all year round; I even dress him up for Halloween.
The point of this is that the smallest things can take you back to a place and time when life was simpler and we could just worry about presents, presents, present, like my niece and nephew did this year. But what this holiday is really all about is family and the memories we’ve made each holiday we get to spend with one another.
This final holiday weekend, grab a Mr. Bingle, read your children the story of the famous snowman, have yourself some beignets and make some memories. My favorites always included this warm, lovable New Orleans icon, and I remember Mr. Bingle’s jingle way more than I remember what my grandmother gave me as a gift each year.
When Santa left his shop one day
He found a snowman near his sleigh.
“You’ll be my helper now,” he said,
And tapped the little fellow’s head.
The snowman found that he could talk–
“Look, Santa, I can even walk!”
And then he gave a little sigh…
“Oh, how I wish that I could fly!”
So, Santa gave him holly wings,
Then, looking through his Christmas things,
Found ornaments the very size
To make a pair of shining eyes.
Then Santa said, “You need a hat;
An ice cream cone’s just right for that.
And keep this candy cane with you,
You’ll see what magic it can do!”
The snowman laughed and sang a jingle,
So Santa named him “Mr. Bingle.”
That’s how it happened. Now he’s here
With us at Maison Blanche all year.
Read more from New Orleans writer and event planner Kelly Sherlock at her blog.