Plump, rosy-cheeked and carrying a sack full of goodies – here comes Jolly Old Saint Nick
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way… As the familiar song rings throughout every public space once again, it’s obvious that Christmas is coming. Can you still remember what gift you wanted most from Santa Claus when you were a kid? The man who brings happiness and warmth is often depicted in a red suit with fluffy, white beard and a big bag full of presents. However, the jolly old fellow hasn’t always appeared the way we envision him today.
It is said that Santa’s clothes were initially green in the early 17th century, as the colour was thought to have the power to defeat the cold. Setting the stage for the modern-day depiction, in the 1860s, cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly, the famed American political magazine based in New York City, as part of a larger illustration whose title was “A Christmas Furlough”. In his work, Santa Claus was drawn complete with reindeer, a sleigh and many more of the iconic associations today. However, for a long time, the well-known red suit was not the default version. In the 1864 edition of American writer Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “A Visit from St Nicholas” (also known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”), Santa Claus was depicted in yellow.
The most significant turning point came in the 1920s, when the Coca-Cola Company began its Christmas advertising. It is said that Santa’s red coat appeared because of the predominant colour of Coca-Cola’s logo; however, the red clothes had already existed long before illustrator Haddon Sundblom painted him for the campaign. Due to the magical powers of advertising, the famous slogan “The Pause That Refreshes” impressed people, together with the kindly, grandfatherly man with round, rosy cheeks and a scarlet outfit. Some of Sundblom’s works depicting Santa Claus have also become valuable art pieces that have been exhibited in famous museums, such as the Louvre and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Coca-Cola solidified the image in our minds – and the marketing machine is largely responsible for our association with Santa in his big red suit.
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