How Santa Claus Became A Symbol For Christmas Celebrations

Children across the world are excited. Families are spending time together, free from their busy schedules, engaging in feasts and joy. It’s that time of the year again. And perhaps the most globally recognized symbol of Christmas cheer is none other than Santa Claus himself. But how did he become so iconic? Why do we imagine an old man dressed in red and white, with a long beard riding across the sky with his magical reindeer when we think Christmas? What has made Santa synonymous with our favorite time of the year?

There is a long history of famous historical and mythical figures as well as art that has helped shape the image of the modern Santa. The 4th Century AD Greek Saint Nicholas, the 16th Century English Symbol of Christmas Cheer Father Christmas, the 19th century drawings of American Cartoonist Thomas Nast, are all earlier versions of the modern Santa. The modern image of Santa Claus as we know it today, wearing a red and white coat, with big boots and an even bigger belly, a long white beard and limitless presents for everybody, however was popularized during the mid-20th Century between 1930s to 1970s through the Holiday advertising campaigns of a certain brand you might have heard of- Coca Cola.

In 1931 the company began placing Coca-Cola ads in popular magazines. Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the campaign to show a wholesome Santa who was both realistic and symbolic. So Coca-Cola commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa.

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa. (And even though it’s often said that Santa wears a red coat because red is the color of Coca-Cola, Santa appeared in a red coat before Sundblom painted him.) 

Sundblom’s iconic image went on to define the way we think of Santa Claus and Christmas at large. To this day, Coca-Cola’s Holiday Ad Campaigns remain extremely popular and successful. This shows how a successful marketing and advertising campaign can do more than just sell products, it can shape culture and influence the way we think and in this case, spread smiles across millions of faces in the world. It is these creative geniuses, these passionate thinkers, that the Edoofa Scholarship Program is looking for, for its MBA-Marketing and Mass Communication Courses

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