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.
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?
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- The Story of Frank O'Hara's ‘Having a Coke With You’ Poem
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- How Italy Celebrates Carnival
- Andy Warhol and Coca-Cola: From Classic to New Coke and Back Again