Now here’s an interesting piece GoNintendo linked to earlier today (sadly, the auction for it has ended, but I didn’t have the $108 anyway). It’s a store display sign from 1989, and if you’re familiar with vintage video game commercials, you might remember the ad campaign and contest this was a part of.
I remember wanting one of these, though I seem to recall there being more color– probably different versions. But somehow, a “Santa Mario” just seemed so much cooler to me than a mere Santa Claus. Interestingly enough, and I didn’t realize this at the time, but the character model here is not Nintendo’s Mario, so to speak; rather, it is the one DiC Entertainment used for their run of Super Mario cartoons which began with The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! in the Autumn of that same year (the main giveaway is the way the shine on his eyes is rendered, and how his inner-ear is drawn helps, too).
Amusingly enough, the whole thing eventually came full circle two years later when Mario would take up the beard and hat (along with a Yoshi-drawn sleigh) in an episode of The New Super Mario World on NBC.