The Image of Santa Claus

Did you know that Santa Claus didn’t always appear as a big, jolly man in a red suit with a white beard?

Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall, thin man to a spooky-looking elf.

He has been clothed in green or brown, wearing a bishop’s robe and Norse huntsman's animal skin.

Artist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.

Santa has been featured in Coke ads since the 1920s, initially looking very stern.

In 1931 Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create a wholesome Santa who was both realistic and symbolic.

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore's 1822 poem "T’was the Night Before Christmas".

Moore's description of St. Nick led to an image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa – the same image we associate today with this gift-bringing symbol of the season!

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Clement Clark Moore

"T’was the Night Before Christmas"