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Contrary to what many believe, Santa Claus as weknowhimtodaysleighriding,giftgiving, rotund and white bearded with his distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur was not the creation of the Coca Cola Company. Although their Christmas advertising campaigns of the 1930s and 40s were key to popularising the image, Santa can be seen in his modern form decades before Coca Colas illustrator Haddon Sundblom got to work. Prior to settling on his famedredgarbandjollybeardedcountenance, throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Santa morphed through a variety of different looks. From the description given in Clement MooresAVisitfromStNicholasin1822,through the vision of artist Thomas Nast, and later NormanRockwell,MrClausgraduallyshedhis various guises and became the jolly redsuited Santa we know today. Below weve put together a little pictorial guide showing his evolvementthroughtheages.

Christian with dowries so that they would not havetobecomeprostitutes.

St.NicholasLipenskyasheappearsonaRussianicondatedto1294 fromLipnyaChurchofSt.NicholasinNovgorod.

Being the patron saint of children St. Nicholas has long been associated with giving gifts to children.TheparallelstothemoderndaySanta Claus dont end there. In his Dutch form ofSinterklaashe was imagined to carry a staff, rideabovetherooftops(onahugewhitehorse) and have mischievous helpers who listened at chimneys to find out whether children were being bad or good. These features all also link him to the legend of Odin, a god who was worshipped among the Germanic peoples in North Although in Europe the feast of St. Nicholas, and Western Europe prior to Christianization.

The name Santa Claus has his roots in the informal Dutch name for St. Nicholas,Sinterklaas(an abbreviation ofSint Nikolaas).St.Nicholaswasahistoric4thcentury Greek saint (from an area now in modern day Turkey) who had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting coins in the shoes left outforhim.Hewasalsofamousforpresenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious

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typically on the 6th December, was very popular throughout the middle ages, after the reformation in the 16th century the celebration died out in most Protestant countries, apart from Holland where the celebration ofSinterklaaslivedon.

A Pictorial History of Santa Claus

Christmas(1686), published shortly after

Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England after being banned in post Civil War England as a symbol of Catholic superstition andgodlessselfindulgence.

Another important tributary to the image of Santa Claus was the phenomenon of Father Christmas also known as Old Father Christmas,SirChristmas,andLordChristmas a traditional figure in English folklore and identified with the similarly bearded Old English god Woden. He typically represented the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, but was not associated with either children of the bringingofgifts.

Although the east coast of America was full of Dutch settlers, it was not until the early 19th century that the figure of Sinterklaas would make his way properly across the Atlantic and so give birth to the Americanised Santa Claus. Following the Revolutionary War the already heavily Dutch influenced New York City (formerly of course named New Amsterdam) saw a new surge of interest in Dutch customs, and with them St. Nicholas. In 1804 John Pintard, an influential patriot and antiquarian, founded the New York Historical Society and promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both thesocietyandcity.OnDecember6th1810the society hosted its first St. Nicholas anniversary dinner and Pintard commissioned the artist Alexander Anderson to draw an image of the saint to be handed out at the dinner. In Andersons portrayal he was still shown as a religious figure, but now he was also clearly depositing gifts in fireside stockings and is associated with rewarding the goodness of children. While St. Nicholas day never quite tookoffinthewayPintardwanted,Andersons image of Sancte Claus most certainly did.

Father Christmas as pictured in Josiah Kings The Examination and TryalofFatherChristmas(1686).







personification of Christmas are thought to be froma15thcenturycarolwhichreferstoaSire Christmas. The picture above is from Josiah KingsThe Examination and Tryal of Father

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Astimewentby,moreandmorewasaddedto the Santa Claus legend. The cartoonist Thomas Nast established the bounds for Santa Claus current look with an initial illustration in an 1863issueofHarpersWeekly,aspartofalarge illustrationtitledAChristmasFurlough.

Print of St Nicholas by Alexander Anderson commisioned by John Pintard(1810).

AyearbeforetheNewYorkHistoricalSocietys feasttheauthorWashingtonIrvinghadwritten aboutSantainhissatiricalfictionKnickerbockers History of New York, describing a jolly St. Nicholas character as opposed to the saintly bishop of yesteryear one who flew in a reindeer pulled sleigh and delivered presents down chimneys. The next key step to securing the image of Santa Claus was the 1822 poem entitledA Visit from St. Nicholaswritten by ClementMoore,laterbetterknownasTheNight Before Christmas. Moore drew upon Irvings description and Pintards New Amsterdam tradition and added some more Odinlike elements from German and Norse legends to create the allwinking, sleighriding Saint and alsothenamesforhisflyingreindeer. AlthoughNasthadgottentheparaphernaliaof reindeer, sleigh, etc down to a tee, the famous redsuitwasstillyettobeset.Overthedecades Santawouldbedepictedinavarietyofcolours such as blue, green and the yellow as pictured inthis1964editionofMooresAVisitfromSt. Nicholas.

Detail from Thomas Nasts illustration A Christmas Furlough for thefrontpageofa1863issueofHarpersWeekly.

InlaterNastdrawingsahomeattheNorthPole was added, as was the workshop for building toys and a large book filled with the names of children who had been naughty or nice.


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A Pictorial History of Santa Claus

In this later 1881 illustration by Thomas Nast named Merry Old Santa the modern Santa characterreallybeginstotakeshape.Presentis the jolly rotundity and the all important red of the suit.

Illustration from the 1864 edition of Clement Moores poemA Visit fromSt.Nicholas.


In this 1968 advert for Sugar Plums we see the red of the jacket, but the hat is green and he appearstohavenotrousersonatall.

Santa Claus Sugar Plums, showing a red(ish) suited Santa Claus on sleighwithreindeer.

ThomasNastsmostfamousdrawing,MerryOldSantaClaus,from theJanuary1,1881editionofHarpersWeekly.

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TheLifeandAdventuresOfSantaClausbyauthor ofThe Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, with its elaborations and much added detail went a long way to popularising the legend of Santa. However, in the cover to the first edition of Baumsbookweseetheredofhissuitisstillyet tobemandatory.

Santa Claus as illustrated by Frank A. Nankivell inPuck, v. 52, no. 1344 (December31902).

In this Canadian department store brochure from 1906 we see that Santa, with his black trimmedsuitandbobblelesshat,wasstillable to deviate from his typical image.


In this cover forPuckillustrated by the Australian Frank A. Nankivell, we see perhaps for the first time a depcition of Santa which is indistinguishablefromthatofthepresentday.

CoveroftheEatonsdepartmentstoreChristmascataloguefor1906,showing animageofSantaClaus.Toronto,Canada.

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A Pictorial History of Santa Claus

The illustrator Norman Rockwell, with his many depictions throughout the 1920s, was a key player in cementing Santas modern look. Here is an early illustration of his from before theFirstWorldWar.


SantaappearsinclassicforminthispieceofU.S. WW1propaganda.


A poster by the U.S. Food Administration. Educational Division, AdvertisingSection,ca.1918Source

AnJapaneseillustrationfrom1914,showingthe spread of the Santa legend had reached far wider than just Europe and America.

Pictured here are just two of Norman Rockwells many Santa themed covers for theSaturday Evening Post. Like Sundbloms depictions for Coca Cola more than a decade later, these pictures of Rockwells give a very physiologically human and naturalistic aspect to the character as opposed to the more cartoonishfeatureswhichhadgonebefore.

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In the U.S. Second World War poster below Santa takes a radical departure from the jolly red suit and dons the dour shades of war.


AposterfromtheOfficeforEmergencyManagement,WarProduction Board,circa.1942.

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A Pictorial History of Santa Claus

AposterfromtheOfficeforEmergencyManagement,WarProduction Board,circa.1942.


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