Origins & Information - Santa Claus' Image and Coca Cola

Are you ready to be mindblown? I sure was when I read all of this. Are you also ready to accept that a part of your life is a corporately-created lie? Okay well it really isn't too big of a deal but the traditional Santa Claus that you know and love (big guy in a red suit with a ruddy face lined with a full white beard) was not always the image of Santa that everyone conjured when they thought of Christmas. In fact, it was Coca-Cola which created this "traditional" Santa!

This year marks the 80th year since the inception of Coca-Cola's Santa as drawn by artist Haddon Sundblom. Before that, Santa's look was undetermined; he was represented in a large variety of ways from "big to small and fat to tall. Santa even appeared as an elf and looked a bit spooky." The differences in appearance had been because of the various countries which celebrate the holiday. He has appeared in a bishop's robe but also animal fur. From 1862-1892, Santa was elfish and supported the Union (drawn by Thomas Nast); his coat went from tan to red and remained red from then on.

To boost winter season sales, Coca-Cola decided that they needed to promote their drink more aggressively. Many consumers thought that it was only for summertime as it was refreshing when ice cold. Santa began appearing in the 1920s but in a fashion similar to Nast's Santa, harsh and gaunt. Their 1922 slogan was "Thirst Knows No Season" and tried connecting Santa with winter and Coke. It wasn't until 1931 that they commissioned Haddon Sundblom to create a wholesome, realistic Santa who was a portrayed as man and not just a man dressed as a symbol.

"For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore's 1822 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (commonly called "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"). Moore's description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human."

The ads for the next 30+ years gave us the iconic images of Santa delivering and playing with toys, reading letters, playing with children who stayed up late, and raiding fridges. They shaped how Santa is perceived today and were so important to customers that slight discrepancies would lead to mass letters scrutinizing the changes. What's neat is that the images used in the ads were based off of people in Sundblom's life - Santa's model really was a person. For more information about the history of the Coca-Cola Santa, you can check out the source here. How mindblown are you right now...or did you already know this and I'm super behind in common knowledge?