When it comes to Christmas, Santa Claus is perhaps the most prominent figure. His red and whites dot all areas of our lives and his jolly spirit defines the heart of the season.
It may, however, come as a shock that Santa was not always decked out in red and white although his cheer has always been part of the legend. Red and white have come to define Santa Claus so much that it is hard to imagine the character of the man who emanated from the historical figure Saint Nicholas, without them.
Saint Nicholas was a man who having been left a large amount of money by his parents at their death, used most of that money to help people rather than for his own personal enjoyment. On that note, they would receive secret gifts from him and he eventually was made a Saint based on his generosity.
So what do red and white have to do with generosity? Some historians have looked at the clothing of the saints during the early centuries. All that research has turned up the fact that in the 4th century when Saint Nicholas existed, the robes of Saints were red and white. It seems like an easy connection to make therefore as to the reason why Santa Claus dons red and white.
A further history lesson will show, however, that in the 16th century when Santa Claus was introduced to the UK as the figure of the Christmas season, he was decked out in green rather than red. In 1862, Thomas Nast, a popular American cartoonist, drew a picture of
Santa for Harper’s Weekly magazine, the original pictures featured Santa in a tan outfit but that transformed over the years to red.
How did the red Santa Claus come to be?
The Santa that we know today was first created for an advertising campaign by Coca-Cola. Haddon Sundblom is the man who is credited with the creation of the Santa we know today.
He had been commissioned by Coca-Cola when the Great Depression was underway to bring something fresh to the table. Coca-Cola and asked him to come up with a Santa who could symbolise Christmas while being relatable to customers.
The inspiration for Sundblom came in the form of an 1822 poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ by Clement Clark Moore. The poem saw Santa described as jolly and plump, with rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes and dimples. Sundblom then took inspiration for his clothing from the robes of Saints and the works of Thomas Nash, which showed a red coat before the end of the 19th Century.
It was 1964 before Sundblom stopped illustrating Santa Claus bu Coca-Cola never misses a chance in this season to utilize this loved Christmas character to advertise their popular drinks.