You might have read over the holidays last year that there was a minor “controversy” in the media about whether Santa Claus wears a red suit because red is Coke’s color. I even did an interview with the BBC in Manchester, England, about this! And last week, during an interview with a television station from Wales, the issue came up again.Santa_red_coat_w0575lo

Actually, we do not claim the color of Santa’s coat, though it has worked out quite well for us, since red is so closely related to Coca-Cola! But we did not come up with the idea of putting Santa in red clothes.

Many previous interpretations of the Santa Claus story featured Santa in a red outfit, notably the illustrations of the famous political cartoonist Thomas Nast and the Christmas card printed by Louis Prang.

Coca-Cola did help to create the modern-day image of Santa, and in fact the way most of us see Santa Claus – friendly and plump with a white beard – did come from Coca-Cola advertising. Before these ads, Santa was drawn in a variety of ways – even as a scary elf – but he was already wearing red!

Coca-Cola introduced this new friendly, human image of Santa (created by illustrator Haddon Sundblom) in December 1931. (This picture is of a 1931 ad.) From 1931-1964, Sundblom created holiday ads for Coke featuring Santa, and those images continue to be used each year on bottles, cans and 12-packs.

Do you have any favorite holiday stories that include Coca-Cola?