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Christmas A to Z

Learn interesting, unusual, unique and useful facts and tips about Christmas and the winter holiday season, in America and around the world.

Why Is Santa’s Suit Red?

I

t started out green in the earliest of the legends and folklore with characters known as "gift-givers". Whether the giver was from Norway or Germany or elsewhere, he was depicted as wearing some sort of green coat. Perhaps, because the gift-giver appeared in winter in locations apt to be snow-covered on his arrival, the green color was representative of a promise for green plants to return. At least he stood out against the snow almost as much as if he were in red.

Occasionally the gift-giver was attired in a red bishop’s robe (St. Nicholas was a bishop after all), but that was a limited, rare engagement.

The change from green to red occurred, not when Clement Clarke Moore published his A Visit from St. Nicholas ("he was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot" with no color mentioned), but from an illustration in Puck, the humor magazine, in the early 1900s. This was followed by a soft drink company, whose colors were red and white, and that "borrowed" Santa around 1916 to push their mineral water and later in the 1920s to sell ginger ale. Obviously, this effort by the White Rock Beverage Company (which by now is better known for its portrayal of Psyche perched on a rock and looking at her reflection in a pond) all preceded Coca Cola’s hiring Haddon Sundblom in the 1930s to come up with our definitive vision of Santa as a Coke drinking, red-suited, larger-than-life and very jolly Coke salesman.

Written by Dianne Weller
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