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he colors red has been associated with Santa Claus ever since he was invented. This fictional, yet festive, the character was created to enhance the spirit of Christmas. Rumors have it that New Yorkers were the people who created this fictional character and as Christmas was already associated mostly with the color red they decided to endow their new creation with it.

Although, as most things were presented in white and black at the time, it wasn’t until 1864 that Santa Claus was first described as wearing a specific color of clothing in the poem “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore. This color was yellow or better described as gold as this was portraying the richness within the Christmas festivity.

Thomas Nest (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The man who we need to credit for giving Santa Claus his red robes is Thomas Nast who was the first illustrator to portray Santa in red. Since 1870, Nast made hundreds of designs for this fictional character, but it wasn’t until 1881 that the final design was ready. That design was just like the one we know very well today, a white beard and red clothes, and it was presented in Harper’s Weekly magazine.

Thomas Nast is also the person who gave Santa his home, which is the North Pole. When doing so he thought that Christmas is associated with snow, lots of snow, and where else could you find more snow than at the North Pole. These basic concepts have been constantly developed by different brands and animated shows, as well as authors.

Commercializing the Red on Christmas

At the start of the 20th century, there were some battles fought over changing or “enhancing” the image of Santa Claus by redefying him a bit to look more realistic. Two important illustrators who tried to do this were J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell as they tried to offer the public a more humanized Santa, making people think that he isn’t a fictional character. This was first seen in the Saturday Evening Post with a poster where Santa was used as a “celebrity” to endorse Coca Cola which is without a doubt the brand that associates the most with Christmas.

Poster by J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell (Source: Saturday Evening Post)

The first marketing campaign that started using Santa Claus as an endorsement for Coca-Cola was named “Thirst Knows No Season” and it became quite famous in the 1920s, especially since the prohibition going on at the time. The image of Santa was once again slightly changed in 1934 by illustrator Haddon Sundblom who worked for Coca-Cola. He made Santa look exactly like the Santa we see on Coca-Cola trucks every Christmas.

Although he is the closest fictional character to become alive through different brands and products. His color and image have been slightly changed by different countries and cultures that have different Christmas traditions or some which may not even celebrate Christmas. It can also be argued that this fictional character is the most commercialized in the world, by appearing in many different shows and being portrayed in various products.

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