Most of us know that Santa Claus lives near the North Pole, probably somewhere in Finland, and every Christmas Eve he gets dressed in a bright red suit, jumps into a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and delivers gifts to all the children of the world, entering their house by the chimney.
1. Who was the original Santa?
2. Why does Santa wear red clothes?
I’m pretty sure I know the answer to No1, and I think I know the answer to No2.
Santa Claus was originally Saint Nicholas, who lived in Myra in southern Turkey in the 4th century. His name in German is Sankt Niklaus and his name in Dutch is Sinterklaas, so it’s easy to see how this changed to Santa Claus.
Not much is known about Saint Nicholas, except that he was a very kind and popular man who helped many people, especially the poor, and it is thought he also gave them gifts.
But no-one knows if he wore red clothes or had a white beard. I thought his red clothes started with Coca Cola commercials in the 1930s. For many years Coca Cola used Santa Claus as a character to help sell their drink. Since Santa was dressed in red, white and black it matched very well with the colours of the Coca Cola label.
It doesn’t seem a good idea to me. Can you imagine a company using Mother Theresa to advertise orange juice? I guess if Coca Cola used Santa to sell orange juice then his name would be changed to ‘Fanta Claus’!
But Santa was very successful at selling Coke, and many other companies used Santa to sell their products until the 1960s.
So the Coca Cola Corporation put Santa in red? No, I was wrong. There are many Santa pictures from well before this time which show Santa in a red and white suit, with a black belt.
The picture above is by Thomas Nast in 1869 (before Coca Cola was invented), and it is thought that he was the first person to dress Santa in red.
This picture was drawn in 1908 by E Boyd Smith and shows Santa in the same suit as we see him now, and with a very long white beard.
But all this happened in the USA. The rest of the world got to see Santa in a bright red suit when they saw all the Coca Cola commercials. So, even though the artist Thomas Nast gave Santa his first red suit, we can be pretty certain that the Coca Cola commercials made sure that Santa will always be in red.