Did Coca-Cola Invent Santa Claus?

lg_santa_19311Did Coca-Cola invent the image of the modern-day Santa Claus – a white haired man in red clothes who delivers holiday gifts to kids? Not exactly. But they popularized Santa and ingrained into our mindsets that very image.

Here’s some history, thanks to the the St. Nicholas Center.

1804 — John Pintard, influential patriot and antiquarian, who founded the New York Historical Society in 1804, promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both society and city.

1809 — Washington Irving joined the society and on St. Nicholas Day that year he published the satirical fiction, Knickerbocker’s History of New York, with numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character. This was not a saintly bishop, rather an elfin Dutch burgher with a clay pipe. These delightful flights of imagination are the origin of the New Amsterdam St. Nicholas legends: that the first Dutch emigrant ship had a figurehead of St. Nicholas; that St. Nicholas Day was observed in the colony; that the first church was dedicated to him; and that St. Nicholas comes down chimneys to bring gifts.

Irving’s work was regarded as the “first notable work of imagination in the New World.”
The New York Historical Society held its first St. Nicholas anniversary dinner on December 6, 1810. John Pintard commissioned artist Alexander Anderson to create the first American image of Nicholas for the occasion. Nicholas was shown in a gift-giving role with children’s treats in stockings hanging at a fireplace. The accompanying poem ends, “Saint Nicholas, my dear good friend! To serve you ever was my end, If you will, now, me something give, I’ll serve you ever while I live.”

The jolly elf image received a big boost in 1823, from a poem destined to become immensely popular, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” now better known as “The Night Before Christmas.”

1931 – Coca-Cola started to use Santa in a ‘good-feeling’ marketing campaign. So, in fact, Coke mainstreamed the idea of Santa Claus and laid the foundations of the giant gift-buying extravaganza it is today. I would image all kinds of marketers had the same idea as Coke.

Well, even though it was/is a marketing play, still it’s fun. So have a very Merry XMAS. And spend lots of money. Retailers need your support.

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