How Coca-Cola Changed Santas Appearance

Coca-Cola made only one change to Santa’s appearance, and it had nothing to do with his red outfit…

When the “Holidays Are Coming” Coca-Cola ad is shown on TV, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say:

“Did you know Coke made Santa red? He used to be green, right?”

Many of us take these statements as facts, but they are entirely fictional.

Why do people believe this?

As many of us know, Santa is based on Saint Nicholas, a Greek Christian bishop known for his kindness and generosity.

Nicholas was famous for performing miracles and giving to those less fortunate than him. In Germany, people celebrate “St. Nikolaus Day” on December 6th by leaving their shoes outside their room. The original Saint Nick would put coins in the shoes of the poor, as people would often leave their boots outside back in the day.

In the 16th Century after the reformation, the stories and traditions of Saint Nicholas became unpopular and uncelebrated until he started appearing as a character in old English plays and stories as someone who would deliver gifts to children. At that time, he was known as “Old Man Christmas” or “Father Christmas”. This trend eventually caught on across Europe.

In France, he became known as “Père Nöel”, and in parts of Austria and Germany, he was called “Christkind”, which was a golden-haired baby version of Jesus with angel wings.

How did Santa become the red, jolly old man we know today?

Bishops are known to wear red robes, so quite often, Saint Nicholas was depicted in red robes when being illustrated. Thomas Nast started doing this when his illustrations of Santa began appearing in the magazine Harper’s Weekly. Before these illustrations, Santa was often depicted wearing all kinds of colors, including white, blue, brown, and green.

Harper’s Weekly published Nast’s drawings of Santa for 20 years, all of which were the iconic man we recognize today – a cheerful, grinning gentleman with a big belly, red and white robes, and a sack of gifts. Nast also gave him a pipe.

Nast’s drawings of Santa became very popular and were accepted as the norm for what he looked like. More and more artists started drawing Santa as Nast had, wearing the red outfit now synonymous with Christmas between 1900 and 1930.

What does this have to do with Coca-Cola?

In 1931, Coca-Cola first used Santa in their ads, with artist Haddon Sundblom making only one major change to the iconic portrayal of him by Thomas Nast – he switched Santa’s pipe to a glass bottle of Coke!

So, while Santa hasn’t always been red, it wasn’t Coke that made him red. And they definitely don’t own the rights to Santa – they’ve even debunked this myth themselves!

Coca-Cola’s most famous Christmas contributions are the Coca-Cola Christmas trucks and the “Holidays Are Coming” ads. These ads began in 1995 and now signify the start of the Christmas season, even in November. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading this and can now impress others with the knowledge that Coca-Cola is responsible for Santa’s red suit.


1. What was Santa Claus’s original appearance?

Santa Claus has been depicted in many ways throughout history, but his original appearance was quite different from the jolly, rotund figure we know today. The Santa Claus of old was often portrayed as a thin, somewhat serious figure, more akin to a bishop than a gift-bearing elf. This version of Santa was popularized in the United States by a 1822 poem called “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” which described him as a “little old driver” with a “long beard and a pipe.”

2. How did Coca-Cola change Santa’s appearance?

In the 1930s, Coca-Cola began a holiday advertising campaign that featured a plump, jolly Santa Claus dressed in red and white. This image was created by artist Haddon Sundblom, who drew inspiration from the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” as well as other depictions of Santa Claus throughout history. The Coca-Cola Santa was an instant hit and quickly became the standard image of Santa Claus in the United States and around the world.

3. Why did Coca-Cola choose to change Santa’s appearance?

There are a few theories as to why Coca-Cola chose to change Santa’s appearance. One is that the company wanted to create a more relatable, friendly image of Santa Claus that would appeal to children. Another theory is that Coca-Cola simply wanted to use the holiday season as a way to market its product. Whatever the reason, the campaign was a huge success and helped cement the modern image of Santa Claus in popular culture.

4. Has Santa’s appearance changed since the Coca-Cola campaign?

While the Coca-Cola campaign certainly popularized the image of Santa Claus in a red and white suit, his appearance has continued to evolve over time. Some depictions of Santa still show him as a thin, serious figure, while others show him as a rotund, jolly fellow. His clothing has also changed, with some versions of Santa wearing green or blue instead of red. However, the Coca-Cola Santa remains the most iconic and widely recognized image of Santa Claus.

5. Why is Santa Claus still such an important figure in popular culture?

Santa Claus has become an important figure in popular culture because he represents the spirit of giving and generosity that is so important during the holiday season. Children love Santa because he brings them presents, and adults appreciate the message of goodwill and kindness that he embodies. Additionally, Santa has become a symbol of the holiday season itself, with his image appearing on everything from greeting cards to decorations to advertisements. Overall, Santa Claus remains an enduring symbol of the holiday season and all that it represents.

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