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Did Coca-Cola invent the modern Father Christmas?


Once, quite some time ago someone told me a 'fact' that rocked my world. 

Father Christmas only wore red and white due to an advertising campaign by Coca-Cola. Could advertising and consumerism be solely responsible for the image of Father Christmas in a white and red suit? Had we all been so persuaded by the 'branding' that we now blindly accepted the fact that the Jolly man wore red and white... What is the reality?

Victorian times saw the popularisation of Father Christmas as a character on Christmas and greeting cards. Throughout the 1800's he was portrayed in many ways, tall, thin, short, elf-like... always white bearded. See some of the beautiful Victorian images below!


Victorian Red Clothed Father Christmas

So, it seems that up until the turn of the Century the versions of Father Christmas were, indeed many and varied. Coca-Cola was first released as a 'medicinal drink' in the 1860's. At this time, the various artistic impressions of Father Christmas were as varied as they were plentiful. 

Thomas Nast's depiction of Clement Moore's 'The night before Christmas' for the 'Harper's Weekly' in 1876 shows a red clad, jolly, plump man... a version more familiar to us in modern times.

So, what happened to 'standardise' his appearance? Well, it seems that there is that indisputable fact.... in 1931 Coca-Cola released their first advertisement poster featuring 'Santa' or 'Father Christmas' in crimson with white fur lined trim. It was not the first time this combination was used to represent the man. Red was the colour chosen to represent St. Nicolas, and hence was always in the mix of the representations of Father Christmas. 

Beyond the colour scheme, the first advertising campaign by Coca-Cola in the 1930's helped cement the idea of Father Christmas being a older, rotund and jolly man. The first advertising campaign produced by Coca-Cola that featured Father Christmas is shown below. 

Once this image was created, it was soon accepted into our psyche. Would you imagine a Father Christmas in any other way? 

Personally, I love the idea of different versions of the man. Why not purple, brown or green? Short, tall, thin or not...aged or somewhat ageless. 

There is one thing for sure...unless you have been lucky enough to see the real Father Christmas in the flesh... who knows?

References and more reading available on this matter are available at the links below.



supplementary images courtesy of https://thegraphicsfairy.com  https://retrographik.com

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