Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Real Thing

It’s a well-known fact that the modern day Santa was invented by Coca Cola. In fact, so well known is this fact that I’ve heard it mentioned a few times in the last week as we draw closer towards Xmas – and it infuriates me. Why? Because it’s a total urban myth.

The Santa Claus figure, although not yet standardized, was ubiquitous by the late 19th century. Santa was portrayed as both large and small; he was usually round but sometimes of normal or slight build; and he dressed in furs or cloth suits of red, blue, green, or purple. A Boston printer named Louis Prang introduced the English custom of Christmas cards to America, and in 1885 he issued a card featuring a red-suited Santa. The chubby Santa with a red suit (like an "overweight superhero") began to replace the fur-dressed image and the multicoloured Santas.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that Coca Cola started to feature Santa on their packaging. Long after Prang’s 1885 version had started to cement its image into the American consciousness. Still you can’t deny that they helped to push the modern Santa Claus to the mass market but they certainly didn’t event him.

One thing that is true though. It’s not officially Christmas until you’ve seen the Coca Cola trucks ‘Holidays Are Coming’ advert.

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