Present Santa Image is a Coca-Cola Creation


Coca-Cola Helped Shape the Image of Santa

Santa the cheerful guy in the red suit has been featured in Coke ads since the 1920s. The Coca-Cola Company began its Christmas advertising in the 1920s with shopping-related ads. 

In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department-store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world's largest soda fountain. The painting was also used in print ads that Christmas season. 

Coca-Cola commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images. In 1931 the company began placing Coca-Cola ads in popular magazines.  Sundblom’s Santa debuted in 1931 in Coke ads in The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others. 

From 1931 to 1964, Coca-Cola advertising showed Santa delivering toys (and playing with them!), pausing to read a letter and enjoy a Coke, visiting with the children who stayed up to greet him, and raiding the refrigerators at a number of homes. 

In the later years The "New Santa"was based on a salesman. In the beginning, Sundblom painted the image of Santa using a live model — his friend Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman. The children who appear with Santa in Sundblom’s paintings were based on Sundblom's neighbors — two little girls. He changed one to a boy in his paintings. The dog in Sundblom’s 1964 Santa Claus painting belonged to the neighborhood florist 


The Santa Claus we all know and love — that big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard — didn’t always look that way. 

The modern character of Santa is based on the historical Saint Nicholas (fourth century Greek Bishop), the sixteenth century English mythological figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch, Belgian and Swiss folklore figure of SinterklaasOver a period of time a mythical character emerged. 

Later in Britain and the British colonies of North America, a version of the gift-giver emerged further. 

"Santa Claus" name was first used in the U.S. press in 1773. He lost his bishop's apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.


Illustration to verse 1 of Old Santeclaus with Much Delight

In 1821, a book A New-Year's Present, To The Little Ones From Five To Twelve was published in New York. It contained a poem Old Santeclaus With Much Delight, describing Santeclaus on a reindeer sleigh, bringing rewards to children.  Some modern ideas of Santa Claus seemingly developed after the anonymous publication of the poem 

Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop's robe and a Norse huntsman's animal skin. In 1862 a Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly as a small elflike figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.


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