It’s that time of year again all over the modern world where we celebrate the holiday known as Christmas – or Yule, if you want to get technical as it was what it was originally was known and then absorbed along with other traditions into one big holiday encompassing others.
And as in keeping with the modern tradition, there also came a legend surrounding a certain figure pretty much well-known in the western world as Santa Claus.
Yes, Santa Claus – but back then he didn’t sport the modern day incarnation of Red suit, White trim, and Black boots. The early Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey).
Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker (Νικόλαος ὁ Θαυματουργός, Nikólaos ho Thaumaturgós). Also known attributed as the British figure of Father Christmas, the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas (himself based on Saint Nicholas), the German figure of the Christkind (a fabulized Christ Child), and the holidays of Twelfth Night and Epiphany and their associated figures of the Three Kings (based on the gift-giving Magi of the Nativity) and Befana. Some maintain Santa Claus also absorbed elements of the Germanic god Wodan, who was associated with the pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.
So if your kids still wonder if Santa was real – yes, he was – in a roundabout way. Everything else just grew out of that.
Unlike today’s modern incarnation; Santa was oftentimes described as slightly elderly, with a long white beard, a “little bit wide around the middle” – but sporting an array of traditional fall/winter garb of varying colors (skin color varied as well) depending in which country you’re in. In modern times, however, Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man—sometimes with spectacles—wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white fur-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children.
And so forth, ad nauseam…
There really WERE a lot of varying depictions of Jolly Saint Nick in every shape or form.
Including one for Krampus, I shit you not:
The current incarnation, however, that everyone seemed to have adopted as the universally acclaimed OFFICIAL LOOK for the guy for the 20th century onwards, came from Coca-Cola.
Imagine that, an ad that left such an impact the world over that the earlier versions of the jolly guy were all but forgotten.
The modern version of Santa Claus was “gifted” to us – in part – by Haddon Hubbard “Sunny” Sundblom. He was an American artist of Finnish and Swedish born June 22, 1899 – March 10, 1976.
According to the Coca-Cola company, Sundblom turned to the significant influence of the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, children’s books, films, and advertising. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa – an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.
His iteration became so synonymous with Coca-Cola that you can’t think of anything else afterwards. His art was just that damn good!
Amazing isn’t it? But don’t take my word for it, here’s a video about them talking about it:
Author: Richard R. for Raccoon TV