In front of department stores, in advertisements and in movies we see Santa Clauses, St. Nicholas and Knecht Ruprechte everywhere during the Advent season. And then there is also the Christ Child. This is quite confusing. How did the figures and customs come into being and who actually plays which role in the (pre-)Christmas season?? What does the Coca Cola brand have to do with Santa Claus??
On 6. December is St. Nicholas Day. Saint Nicholas actually lived – in the 4th century. Century. (Source: Elementary school Krems-Lerchenfeld)
In GermanyAustria and Switzerland, people originally believed only in Saint Nicholas, who was born on 6. December with his servant Ruprecht came into the houses. And, of course, to the Christ Child, who was born on 24. December the children bescherte.
Santa Claus, on the other hand, comes from a completely different culture. He is a fairy tale character who found his way to us from the United States of America and Russia. The Coca-Cola brand of soft drinks was heavily involved in the campaign. But now one after the other.
Saint Nicholas of Myra
On 6. Saint Nicholas is celebrated in December. He actually lived – and in the 4. Century, that is about 1.700 years ago, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. He was a very popular bishop in his time, known as the friend of children and sailors. One story tells that he saved the lives of many poor children by selling all the gold from his church and then giving the money to poor families.
Another story tells of how, during a famine, he had all the church granaries opened so that starving people could bake bread for free. This is said to have saved many lives. He died on the 6. December 345. After his death he was canonized. Even today, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and seamen in the Catholic Church. In memory of his good deeds he is celebrated every year on the 6. December honored. If you wake up in the morning on this day and find some presents, fruit and sweets in front of your bed, you have the legend of Saint Nicholas to thank for it.
Knecht Ruprecht, Santa Claus and Christ Child
Thomas Nast drew this classic Santa Claus in 1881.
This sinister fellow, who sometimes accompanies Santa Claus, dates back to pre-Christian times. He is usually darkly dressed and has a rod with him. So the evil servant Ruprecht scares the "bad children". But thanks to Santa Claus there are still presents in the end.
Santa Claus is a fairy tale character. In the USA he is called Santa Claus and in Russia Father Frost. In our imagination, he lives at the North Pole, where elves and pixies help him make Christmas presents for the children. On the night of 24. on the 25. December he sets off on a reindeer sleigh to the children of the world. He climbs through the chimneys of the houses and brings the presents. On Christmas morning, which is the 25th. December, the children find then before the fireplace under the Christmas tree gifts.
In Germany, however, the fairy tale of Santa Claus was less known. It was only through Hollywood movies and advertising that the tradition came to us. A decisive role has played Coca-Cola. In our culture, it was originally the Christ Child, not Santa Claus, who brought the presents. No one has ever seen it – it’s probably a heavenly angel or elf creature with wings. It should remind of the birth of the baby Jesus in the stable. The Christ Child gives presents to the children in Germany already on the evening of the 24th. December’s.
What has Coca-Cola to do with Christmas??
With the "Santa Claus Coca-Cola wanted to make people drink cold lemonade even in winter. (source: Coca-Cola)
In the USA, the Coca-Cola company came up with the idea of using Santa Claus as an advertising figure for itself. The Swede Haddon Sundblom was to design a Christmas campaign for the dark lemonade in 1931. When he was looking for an idea, the illustrator saw a retired old Coke delivery driver with a long, white beard. Then Sundblom had an "epiphany": he drew a "Cola Claus".
The figure of Santa Claus existed before, but he had no uniform clothing (sometimes he wore a green, sometimes a blue and sometimes a red coat). But the company colors of Coca-Cola are known to be white and red. This is how Santa Claus was dressed for Sundblom’s advertising as we still know him today. Coca-Cola has managed that nobody would put Santa Claus in a blue winter coat anymore.
He was now grinning from so many advertising posters around the world that he became more and more popular. This is how Coca-Cola has shaped our image of Santa Claus.
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