Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 371–389 | Cite as

Myth, identity, and social interaction: Encountering Santa Claus at the mall

  • William E. Thompson
  • Joseph V. Hickey


Each year during the Christmas season Santa Claus appears at shopping malls across the country. This qualitative study shows how Santa actors and the public respond to the typification of the Santa myth. Using the dramaturgical approach, the authors examine the meanings that people of various age and gender identities attribute to the mall environment, and how these understandings influence their interactions with Santa. Behaviors are analyzed in age cohorts ranging from infancy to the elderly. Gender strongly influenced people's interactions with Santa across all age cohorts. Adult behaviors varied widely, but in the presence of children, both males and females promoted the Santa Claus fantasy. In the mall setting, where one's social identity is subject to public scrutiny, interactions with Santa help define, reinforce, and confirm one's sense of self.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • William E. Thompson
    • 1
  • Joseph V. Hickey
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyEast Texas State UniversityCommerce

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