Unraveling the Link Between Santa Claus and Coca-Cola Company

The legend of Santa Claus, a jovial old man dressed in a red suit who travels the world delivering presents to good children, is recognized worldwide. However, the genesis and evolution of this popular character remain topics of fascinating exploration. Delving into the historical origins of Santa Claus, this discussion scrutinizes whether the friendly red-suited man’s creation was purely the byproduct of inspired folklore or, perhaps, a clever advertisement strategy. Moving forward from its roots in ancient folklore to its modern-day representation in popular culture, the character of Santa Claus has undeniably undergone considerable transformation over the centuries. Boiled down to its essence, though, the essential spirit of joy and giving that Santa Claus represents remains unchanged.

The Creation of Santa Claus Character

Headlining countless Christmas cards and starring as a main character in numerous festive films and retail displays, Santa Claus has become a globally recognized symbol of the Christmas season. But who created this jovial, generous character and when was he first mentioned? Plunging into the depths of history, it becomes evident that Santa Claus is a complex character with rich origins that can be traced back to numerous cultures and historical figures.

The primary figure that shaped the persona of Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas of Myra, a 4th-century Turkish bishop known for his kindness and generosity. According to a popular legend, he helped three impoverished sisters avoid destitution by providing them with dowries. In medieval Europe, especially the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, was marked by the giving of gifts, a tradition that eventually became associated with Christmas. Fast forward to the early 19th century, Dutch immigrants brought the character of ‘Sinterklaas,’ a variation of Saint Nicholas, to American shores. Soon after, in 1823, Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” also known as “The Night Before Christmas,” greatly contributed to shaping the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly, rotund, and bearded man who travels on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

Combining folklore, cultural traditions, and imaginative literature, the creation of Santa Claus was not an act of a single person or a specific time. He is a timeless character, shaped and molded across centuries by countless individuals and societies. Santa Claus, as we know him today, emerged from a melting pot of influences and continues to be an evolving symbol of generosity and festivity.

An image of Santa Claus holding a sack of gifts in front of a Christmas tree

Santa Claus and the Coca-Cola Connection

The claim that Coca Cola is solely responsible for creating the contemporary image of Santa Claus is a popular myth. This misconception likely originates from the significant role Coca Cola has played in spreading Santa Claus imagery through its pervasive holiday advertising. Starting from 1931, Coca Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to design a series of Christmas advertisements featuring a jolly, rotund, red-suited Santa Claus, which adhered closely to the image popularized by Moore’s poem. Sundblom’s depictions indeed had a profound influence on how customers viewed Santa Claus, and these advertisements have remained a cherished part of holiday traditions.

However, it’s necessary to note that Coca Cola did not originate the image. These characteristics of Santa Claus – his cheery disposition, his ample figure, the red suit trimmed with white fur, and his unmistakable white beard were well-established, albeit not universal, in Christmas folklore and holiday illustrations before the Coke advertisements came into play. For instance, the red suit can be traced back to the 1880s in Thomas Nast’s Harper’s Weekly political cartoons. In these illustrations, Santa Claus donned a red suit while delivering gifts – a good four decades before Coca Cola’s legendary ad campaigns.

To wrap it up, the veracity of the claim that Coca Cola created the modern image of Santa Claus is marked as false. While Coca Cola certainly popularized this depiction of Santa Claus and made it recognizable worldwide through their expansive advertisement, credit for the original creation of this image does not solely belong to the beverage company. Instead, the image evolved over time with contributions from numerous sources, ranging from historical figures and cultural traditions to literature and commercial advertising.

Image depicting the evolution of Santa Claus throughout history.

In the ultimate analysis, it becomes clear that while the Coca-Cola Company’s advertising campaign played a significant role in popularizing the contemporary image of Santa Claus, they were not his original creators. Instead, Santa Claus is a tapestry, woven with threads from numerous sources—European folklore to Victorian ghost stories, and finally, 20th-century corporate advertising. Although Coca-Cola has hand in shaping his modern image, it can be argued that they simply optimized a pre-existing concept for their promotional advantage. It’s a reflection of the continuous evolution and interplay between folklore and commerce that ultimately led to the universally recognized figure of Santa Claus we know today.