Origin of Santa Claus – Did Coca-Cola Invent Santa Claus?

Origin of Santa Claus – Did Coca-Cola Invent Santa Claus?

Although the Coca-Cola Company helped popularize Santa Claus, it cannot take credit for creating the ubiquitous Christmas image.

Nothing says Christmas like the image of a white whiskered fat man in a red suit squeezing down a chimney with a sack full of toys. But Santa Claus hasn’t always looked that way. When the Coca-Cola Company used the red robed figure in the 1930s to promote its soft drinks, the classic image of Santa was cemented in the public consciousness.

Santa Claus evolved from two religious figures, Saint Nicholas and Christkindlein. Saint Nicholas was a real person, a monk who became a bishop in the early fourth century and was renowned as a generous gift-giver. Christkindlein, meaning “ Christ child”, was assisted by Elfin helpers and would leave gifts for children while they slept.

Santa Claus originated from a Dutch poem, “Sinterklaas”, and the legend was added to over time by different writers. Until the early 20th century, though, Santa Claus was portrayed in many different ways. He could be tall and clad in long robes like Saint Nicholas, or small with whiskers like the elves who helped Christkindlein.

In 1881, Thomas Nast, a caricaturist for Harper’s Weekly, first drew Santa as a merry figure in red with flowing whiskers, an image close to the one we know today. Printer Louis Prang used a similar image in 1885 when he introduced Christmas cards to America. In 1931, the Coca-Cola Company first employed Haddon Sundblom to illustrate its annual advertisements, choosing a Santa dressed in red and white to match the corporate colors.

By then, however, this was already the most popular image of Santa Claus, one that was described in detail in a New York Times article in 1927. If Coca-Cola had really invented Santa Claus, children would likely be saving the milk and leaving him soda and cookies on Christmas Eve.

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