Jumping the gun on this one...Hoping to cheer up a nation slipping into a Depression, Coca-Cola hired an advertising artist to paint them a cheerful Santa for a fun and festive holiday promotion. The artist thought that Santa's outfit should not clash with the Coke sign, so he used the same colors – red and white. Thus, Santa had a bright red coat, trimmed in snow white fur that matched his snow white beard. At last the current image was complete as Coca-Cola flashed the ads around the globe...
Interesting origins regarding the feast of St. Nicholas, but with hints at one slight, urban myth: Apparently, Thomas Nast had portrayed Santa Claus in the red and white attire, in a book published around 1890. The legendary (among illustrators) Haddon Sundblom's famous illustrations for Coca Cola (starting in 1931) were apparently inspired by Nast's works, and not dictated by the client's product colors.
On this day (+1), which would be December 6th if you have a graduate degree, in about 705 A.D., the Nordic tribes of Europe, recently converted to Christianity, began to adopt a theologically un-definable affection to an Archbishop who had existed three centuries before in an area east of Greece. Legend says he was as wise as they come. And, certainly he was devout. But was that enough to make him a big hit? He did have the added benefits of being the designated patron saint of scholars (ain't we all); merchants (a popular Nordic pastime); sailors (the other Viking pastime) and children. He had gained the latter role through the legend that he had saved three dowry-less young girls by dropping jewels into their home through an open window.
So, over the next thousand years, these Nordic tribes would recall his love of children and his generosity by giving gifts to their children and the poor on St. Nick's feast day – December 6th. When the Dutch came to America, they brought their gift-giving "Sinte Klaus" with them. America moved the day to Christmas and mispronounced his name to Santa Claus.
Of course, by this time Nordic and American winters had made open windows rather impractical in December. So the chimney became the logical point of entry. And, since cold floors tended to make you reach for your stockings (hung to dry by the fire), they became the logical place to hide the jewels (gifts). Santa's American evolution from an affable Archbishop to the rotund old elf we know today came with the assistance of a lot of helpers. First among these is probably Washington Irving the creator of Rip Van Winkle, the Headless Horseman and a variety of stories around the early Dutch settlers. Irving took Sinte Klaus out of his clerical robes and dressed him in the long wool coats favored by the early Dutch burghers around Sleepy Hollow.
Then, around 1822, a classical language scholar, Clement Clark Moore, wrote a poem for his children, which he called – A Visit From St. Nicholas (it quickly became known by its first line – "T'was the night before Christmas"). Moore tried to keep the poem private but his wife mailed it to many friends and the poem and its Jolly Old Elf image swept the new nation.
During the Civil War, Harpers Weekly asked the budding political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, to give them a Christmas image. Nast drew Santa visiting Union troops at the front lines. Nast's first Santa had a certain "Uncle Sam" look about him and was garbed in stars and stripes. In succeeding years, Nast mellowed the image and it became more like the portrayal in Moore's poem.
Then came a rather critical year in the evolution of Christmas and Santa. It was 1931 and it would see the first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. (A rather ragtag version, erected and decorated by the grateful construction workers building Rockefeller Center.)
Hoping to cheer up a nation slipping into a Depression, Coca-Cola hired an advertising artist to paint them a cheerful Santa for a fun and festive holiday promotion. The artist thought that Santa's outfit should not clash with the Coke sign, so he used the same colors – red and white. Thus, Santa had a bright red coat, trimmed in snow white fur that matched his snow white beard. At last the current image was complete as Coca-Cola flashed the ads around the globe.
To prepare for the feast of good old St. Nick, go to the Rooftop Inn and sip enough well-laced eggnog to make your nose look like Rudolph's. But don't get out of line or they'll put coal in your stocking.