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Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | This article is listed in the sections Magazine and Amusement parks.

Santa Claus

 © Coca Cola
© Coca Cola
Visitors to the Disneyland Resort Paris step aside when he makes his way through the park with his big sleigh, other parks give him an own office where he receives visitors and he is an integral part of most Christmas markets around the world – Santa Claus, this joyous, white-bearded old man squeezes his portly body in his robe and literally gets down to work to make children around the world happy.

But where is he actually coming from, or rather, the modern image of Santa Claus that we see everywhere in these days? The general opinion of him being invented by The Coca-Cola Company back in the 1930s is nothing but a persistent urban legend. In fact, we owe his visual appearance to a German – inspired by German folklore figures, the caricaturist Thomas Nast, who moved to the USA in 1846, drew a picture of Santa for the American magazine Harper's Weekly in 1862/1863. He settled with painting his drawing in red and white. Harper's Weekly is the second-oldest continuously published magazine in the United States – so at that time, it had a huge impact in and around its place of publication New York.

As the years went by, Santa's red and white robe became more and more prevalent. The New York Times reported in 1927: "A standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers.” Four years afterwards, the first illustration of the well-known Coca-Cola Santa appeared. This similar looking verion was created by the cartoonist Haddon Sundblom who initially modeled Santa's build and face after the cheerful looks of his friend Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman. After Prentiss passed away, he used himself as a model.

Sundblom kept drawing, year after year, a new picture of Santa Claus for Coca Cola until 1964, and thus contributed to the global fame that the modern image has. So, the fact that the jolly, white-bearded, pot-bellied old chap is everywhere around in the Christmas holiday season lies indirectly within the responsibility of the soft drink manufacturer, but the true origin lies in Germany. Merely the beautiful sleigh pulled by Santa's reindeer Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen has its roots in the USA, or more precisely in the American poem The Night Before Christmas published in 1823. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer joined Santa's helpers later on as he was first mentioned in a 1939 booklet written by Robert L. May.

© parkscout/MV/AF

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