Letter: Santa Claus - the Real Thing

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The Independent Online
From Mr Richard Halliday

Sir: Jonathan Leckie (Letters, 13 December) does well to remind us that the image we have of Santa Claus as a rotund, jovial character attired in red and white is no more than a creation of the Coca-Cola publicity machinery.

It was the dipsomaniac Swedish artist, Haddon Sundblom, who devised Santa as we know him, as part of a 1931 advertising campaign. From then on, Santa would always wear Coke's corporate colours, even when promoting other companies' products.

The first model was a retired Coca-Cola salesman, and only on his death some years later did Sundblom use himself as the model for Santa in Coke's pre-Christmas advertising.

Prior to Sundblom, Santa had more often been depicted wearing blue, yellow or green, rather than red. In addition, particularly in Europe, he was most often tall, slim and hollow cheeked, with a fairly dour expression. A long way from the hyped-up Coca-Cola version we all know and love!

Yours sincerely,

Richard Halliday

Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire