Claus’ red icon

Posted On November 25, 2006

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He’s the spirit of Christmas with his sleigh, sack of presents, big white beard and red suit.

But, hard as it is to believe, Santa Claus only donned his red clobber for the first time 75 years ago. And it was all due to soft drinks giants Coca-Cola.

Although Santa has been around since the Middle Ages, he had been depicted as anything from a sprite with a beard to a bishop and even a union leader handing out presents.

Then Coke wanted a Santa for a global advertising campaign and they came up with the version that virtually everyone now knows. It is the 1931-style Santa which adorns billions of Christmas cards, is seen in department stores and other grottos all over the world and has been recreated by TV and Hollywood countless times.

He has been played on big and small screens by Homer Simpson, Sir Dickie Attenborough, Frank Sinatra and even Billy Bob Thornton. And it is always in the guise of the smiling figure drawn for Coke’s pre-war ads by illustrator Haddon Sundblom, based on a poem called A Visit From St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore.

The soft drinks giants have run ad campaigns ever since then featuring Father Christmas and are mounting a new one to mark the 75th anniversary. The TV ad shows a girl meeting Santa in 1931 and again at various Christmases as she gets older until her own children and grandchildren get to meet him too. The ad, which will be seen worldwide, has been made by British advertising agency Mother using Hollywood director Kerry Conran.