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Iconic Santa: The History of the Coca-Cola Santa

Which came first: the jolly, white-haired Santa or a cold, refreshing Coke®? As history tells it, the Coca-Cola company became a major player in the shaping of Santa, and we all know the kind, laughing Santa with rosy cheeks and full belly finishes his day with a delicious coca-cola. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Santa Claus was commonly depicted as a gaunt, and even scary caricature. Not exactly someone children around the world would be excited to see at the foot of their bed on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t until 1931 Coca-Cola commissioned the American illustrator, of Swedish descent, Haddon Sundblom, to paint advertisements of a friendlier, more approachable, Santa Claus for the company. 

Using the 1822 poem by Clement Clark Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (now commonly known as “T’was The Night Before Christmas”) Sundblom depicted Santa as the warm, generous, grandfatherly man as we know him to be today. Sundblom is credited with the creation of Santa’s modern-day depiction. It was a brilliant and historical move by the Coca-Cola company’s advertising department, though they probably didn’t know how lasting their commission would be. Sundblom also painted the sprightly “Sprite boy” for Coca-Cola in the 40’s and 50’s. 

Old World Christmas is proud of our Coca-Cola collection depicting Sundblom’s Santa. They immediately harken to a simpler time of saddle shoes, poodle skirts and of course a cold Coca-Cola shared with friends. Sundblom’s Santa is nostalgic, friendly, keeping secrets and checking his list. Sprite Boy even shows up, this time highlighting Coke®, with a friendly smile. Old World Christmas’ collection goes beyond just Santa too. Our Coca-Cola collection includes the iconic Coca-Cola Polar Bear family, and a Ginger Cottage Coke® collection, complete with display stands to light up the cottages. 

We’re big fans of the Ginger Cottages Coca-Cola collection. It also induces warm fuzzies with both a nostalgic winter village scene including: the covered bridge, country store and gas station, as well as a summer scene including the soda shop and drive-in movie. We think the summer scene Ginger Cottages would look great displayed year round. 

In a slower time, when advertising didn’t move at the speed of light, companies had a greater chance of making a historic impact. Coca-Cola influenced the world through their commissioned paintings of Santa by Haddon Sundblom. These iconic images are synonymous in our minds, married for all eternity, and reminding us of Christmases past. We relive warm memories and emotion of Christmas as a kid. The anticipation, magic and satisfaction Santa brought, but only to sleeping kids snuggled in their beds. Merry Christmas to all, and to all, goodnight.

November 10, 2020 by Rachael Mitchell

Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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