Sunday, December 5, 2010


The first image we have of Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, shows the saint dressed in a bishop's miter and robe, with a kindly, bearded face. The Dutch portrayed their Sinterklaas, the giver of gifts, as a tall and reedy person in a red coat. It took the illustrator Thomas Nast to give St. Nick a rounder frame and a cheerier expression. He made St. Nick even more believable by giving him a workshop and the task of keeping an eye on children's behavior. He also gave him a permanent address: the North Pole!

America further built on this image in the 19th century by picturing him as a jolly gentleman, with white hair, a moustache and a long beard.He acquired a chubbier face and a ruddier complexion. The final milepost in the development of his image came from The Coca Cola Bottling Company when they used Santa for their ad campaign. Their artist, Haddon Sundblom, created an adult who ehshrined Nast's Santa's face and costume. The 1950s campaign continued for more than 40 years and this archetypal Santa image has been perpetuated and recognized as the universally accepted image of Santa Claus.

These two full-color Christmas Coca-Cola ads are from the back pages of National Geographic Magazine from the 1950s, found locally.

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