The Colours of Santa Claus
The legend of Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, has evolved over many years. Whilst we may be familiar with him now as a large, jolly man in a red suit, this image has evolved over time, influenced by folklore and religion. Santa didn’t simply spring to life fully formed and wearing his familiar suit.
It was in the late 19th century that the image we are familiar with today became set and almost standardised. This process has been helped by a number of illustrators and more recently by some well known companies, including Coca Cola.
The original story of Santa Claus derives from Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra (which is in modern day Turkey) in the 4th century. Saint Nicholas was known for his kindness and generosity, hence the legend developed.
Red and white were the traditional colours of the bishop’s robes, although some historians argue that bishops originally dressed in different colours, and that the ‘red’ was more of a ‘tan’. This is probably accurate, given the dyes available at the time.
A look at some early examples of Christmas cards shows Santa in a variety of different colours, including green and blue as well as red.
The modern version of the suit is widely attributed to Thomas Nast, a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist. Nast was associated with Harper’s Weekly magazine from 1859. Nast’s illustrations helped to create the modern image – and colours – of Santa Claus, although even he depicted Santa wearing tan and also green.
This image was further consolidated by Haddon Sundblom, and his advertising work for Coca Cola in the 1930s. This helped to popularise the image of the red suit with the white fur trim. Sundblom is sometimes credited as having created the modern image of Santa – based on Coca Cola’s corporate colours – which isn’t true, although he had an important role in cementing this image and colours. Some of his Santa images are still used by Coca Cola today.
So whilst there are some variations in different countries, Santa has his style and his colours and he sticks to it. There are lots of stories and legends around Santa Claus. We did think of trying to find the truth by asking the one person who would know, but unfortunately he’s very busy at this time of year.
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