Tuesday, December 27, 2016


 Most people can agree on what Santa Claus looks like---jolly, with a red suit and a white beard.  But he didn't always look that way, and Coke advertising actually helped shape the modern day image of Santa.
   2006 marked the 75th anniversary of the famous Coca-Cola Santa Claus.  Starting in 1931, magazine ads for Coca-Cola featured St. Nick as a kind, jolly man in a red suit.  Because magazines were so widely viewed, and because this image of Santa appeared for more than three decades, the image of Santa most people have today is largely based on their advertising.

1931 Coke Santa Ad

 Before the 1931 introduction of the Coke Santa Claus, created by artist Haddon Sundblom, the image of Santa ranged from big to small and fat to tall.  Santa even appeared as an elf and looked a bit spooky.
   Through the centuries, Santa has been depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to an elf.  He has worn a bishop's robe and a Norse huntsman's animal skin.  The modern day Santa is a combination of a number of the stories from a variety of countries.

Santa Claus, 1936

  The Civil War cartoonist, Thomas Nast, drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862, Santa was shown as a small elf-like figure who supported the Union.  Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years and along the way changed the color of his coat from tan to the now traditional red.  Though some people believe the Coca-Cola Santa wears red because that is the Coke color, the red suit comes from Nast's interpretation of St. NIck.
   The Coca-Cola Company began the Christmas advertising in the 1920's with shopping related ads in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post.  The first Santa ad used a strict-looking Claus, in the vein of Thomas Nast.

Santa, 1937

   At this time, many people thought of Coke as a drink only for warm weather.  The Coke Company began a campaign to remind people that Coke was a great choice in any month.  This began with the 1922 slogan "Thirst Knows No Season", and continued with a campaign connecting a true icon of winter---Santa Claus---with the beverage.
   In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke.  The ad featured the world's largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo.  Mizen's painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

Santa, 1938

 Archie Lee, the D'Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coke Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic.  In 1931, The Coke commissioned Michigan born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus--showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa, as Mizen's work had portrayed. him.
   For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore's 1822 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas", or what it's commonly known to day as "Twas the Night Before Christmas".  Moore's description of St. Nick led to an Image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human.  For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa-an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.

Haddon Sundblom, 1931

Haddon Sundblom, some 30 years later


  From 1931 to 1964, Coke advertising showed Santa delivering (and playing!) with toys, pausing to read a letter and enjoy a Coke, playing with children who stayed up to greet him and raiding the refrigerator's at a number of homes.  The original oil paintings Sundblom created were adapted for Coke advertising in magazines, store displays, billboards, posters, calendars, and even plush dolls.  Many of those items today are popular collectibles.
   The Coke Santa made its debut in 1931, in The Saturday Evening Post and appeared regularly in that magazine, as well as Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others.  The instantly popular ad campaign appeared each season, reflecting the times.  One ad even featured Santa in a rocket!

Santa, 1941

  Sundblom continued to create new visions of Santa through 1964.  For decades after, Coke advertising has featured Santa's image based on Sundblom's original works.
   These original paintings by Haddon Sundblom are some of the most prized pieces in the art collection of the Coke Company's Archives Department, and have been on exhibit around the world, including at the Louvre in Paris, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Isetan Department Store in Tokyo and the NK Department Store in Stockholm.

Santa, 1951

   The Coca-Cola Santa has had a powerful, enduring quality that continues to resonate today.  Many of the original paintings can be seen on display at "World of Coca-Cola" in Atlanta, Ga. or touring during the holiday season.

Did You Know?

   People loved the Coke Santa images and paid such close attention to them, that when anything changed, they sent letter to The Coke Company.  One year, Santa's large belt was backwards.  Another year, Santa appeared without a wedding ring, causing fans to write asking what happened to Mrs. Claus.

   In the beginning, artist Haddon Sundblom painted the image of Santa using a live model-his friend Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman.  When Prentiss passed away, Sundblom, used himself as a model, painting while looking into a mirror.  After the 1930's, he used photographs to create the image of St. Nick.

   The children who appear with Santa Claus in Haddon Sundblom's paintings wee based on Sundblom's neighbors.  However, the neighbors were both girls, and Sundblom simply changed one to a boy in his paintings.  He also used the neighborhood florist's dog, a gray poodle in one of his paintings, but painted the animal with black fur. To make the dog stand out in the holiday scene.

Santa, 1953

     The image of Santa Claus has appeared on cartons for bottles of Coke since 1931, when artist Haddon Sundblom first created his version of St. Nick.  Early cartons completely covered the bottles of Coke--almost as if they were inside a box--and had a handle at the very top.  The carton itself was created--and patented--by the Coca-Cola system.  Introduced in 1923, it allowed people to take home more bottle of Coke.
   The Coke Polar Bear stars with Santa on the 2006 advertising for the U.S. Hispanic market.  The Coke Polar Bear was introduced in 1993 as part of the "Always Coca-Cola" campaign.  The first commercial featuring the bear showed was called "Northern Lights" and showed a group of bears watching a "movie" (the Aurora borealis) and drinking from bottles of Coke.

Santa and Spriteboy

   The "Sprite Boy" character, who appeared with Santa and was used in Coke advertising in the 1940's and 50's, was also created by artist Haddon Sundblom.  Though the Coke Company does have a drink called Sprite.  The Sprite Boy character was not named for the beverage.  Sprite Boy's name came because he is a sprite--an elf.  Sprite Boy first appeared in ads in 1942, while the drink Sprite was no introduced until the 1960's.

   In 2001, the artwork from Haddon Sundblom's 1962 original painting was used as the basis for an animated TV commercial staring the Coke Santa.  The ad was created by Academy Award-winning animator Alexandre Petrov.


 This year I thought it would be nice to see what we are all eating on Christmas day – so I am going to start the ball rolling by telling you what people in various nations will be eating.  This will be a nice way for us to all get to know the nicer details of Christmas.

Eastern Europe
708Px-Wigilia Potrawy 554

   In the areas of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (e.g., Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania), an elaborate and ritualised meal of twelve meatless dishes is served on the Eve of Christmas (24th December). This is because the pre-Christmas season is a time of fasting, which is broken on Christmas Day. As is typical of Slavic cultures, great pains are taken to honour the spirits of deceased relatives, including setting a place and dishing out food for them.
   A traditional Christmas meal in the Czech Republic is fried carp and potato salad. This tradition started after excessive increase of fishpond cultivation in the Baroque era. Many households also prepare a great variety of special Christmas biscuits to offer to Christmas visitors. These preparations take place many days and weeks prior to the feast and take a long time to decorate with the remainder usually ending up on a Christmas tree as a decoration.


   On Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), the extended family join together for a succulent dinner around the turkey, stuffed with ground beef and peanuts and decorated with fresh slices of pineapple and cherries; roast potatoes and apple sauce. The desserts include marzipan and assorted bowls with raisins, almonds and the panettone, accompanied by a cup of thick hot chocolate. At midnight, a toast is made, and good wishes and hugs are exchanged. A designated person runs to put Child Jesus in the Nativity scene. Then, the family members take their seat in the dinning room while singing Christmas Carols.


Joulupöytä (translated “Christmas table”) is the name of the traditional food board served at Christmas in Finland, similar to the Swedish smörgåsbord. It contains many different dishes, most of them typical for the season. The main dish is usually a large Christmas ham, which is eaten with mustard or bread along with the other dishes. Fish is also served (often lutefisk and gravlax), and with the ham there are also laatikot, casseroles with liver and raisins, as well as potatoes, rice, and carrots. The traditional Christmas beverage is either alcoholic or non-alcoholic mulled wine (glögi in Finnish).

Gb Roast Turkey

   In English Canada, Christmas dinner is similar to that of its colonial ancestor, England, as well as to its neighbour the United States. Traditional Christmas dinner features turkey with stuffing (dressing), mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetables and plum pudding for dessert. Eggnog, a milk-based punch that is often infused with alcohol, is also very popular around the holiday season. Other Christmas items include butter tarts and shortbread, which are traditionally baked before the holidays and served to visiting friends, at various Christmas and New Year parties, as well as on Christmas day.
   Other ethnic communities may continue to use old world traditions as well. For example, a Ukrainian Canadian family may eat a traditional Christmas meal of 12 meatless dishes, or may simply add perogies to a westernized meal. In French Canada, traditions may be more like those of France.


Gl Ggekstrakt

   In Denmark the traditional Christmas meal served on December 24th consists of either roasted pork, goose or duck. This is served along with potatoes, red cabbage and plenty of gravy. It is followed with a dessert of rice pudding, often with an almond hidden inside, the lucky finder of which is entitled to a present referred to as the almond gift. Traditional Christmas drinks are Gløgg (pictured above) and traditional Christmas beers, specially brewed for the season. These usually have a high alcohol percentage.


   Christmas dinner in The Netherlands is a bit different from customs in neighbouring countries. One typical Dutch tradition is that of ‘gourmet’. This is an evening long event where small groups of people sit together around a gourmet-set and use their own little frying pan to cook and season their own food in very small portions. The host has prepared finely chopped vegetables and different types of meats, fish and prawns/shrimps. Everything is accompanied by different salads, fruits and sauces. The origin of gourmet lies most likely in the former Dutch colony Indonesia.
   The Dutch also enjoy more traditional Christmas-dinners, like roast beef, duck, rabbit, pheasant or roasted or glazed ham. This generally served with different types of vegetables, potatoes and salads. In recent years, traditions from Anglo-Saxon countries have become increasingly popular, most notably the UK-style turkey. Pictured above is the Dutch version of Santa Claus.


Christmas Table


   In France and some other French-speaking countries, a réveillon is a long dinner, and possibly party, held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning “waking”), because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond. Common dishes include goose or duck liver (foie gras); oysters; smoked salmon; lobster; roasted duck, goose or turkey with chestnuts and stuffing; and, for dessert, a traditional christmas cake called “La Buche de Noel” (Christmas log), a cream cake that comes in different flavours (chocolate, hazelnut…) and which has the shape of a log. The beverage served is traditionally Champagne. In Provence, the tradition of the 13 desserts is followed: 13 desserts are served, almost invariably including: pompe à l’huile (a flavoured bread), dates, etc.

New Zealand
Gb Pavlova

   The Christmas customs of New Zealand are largely identical to the United Kingdom due to its status as a former British colony, the ethnic Caucasian population being almost exclusively British or Irish in descent, and the still pervasive British cultural influence on the country courtesy of constant movements of people between New Zealand and the UK. Christmas dinner consists of roast turkey, roast vegetables, stuffing (or dressing, as it is known in North America), cranberry sauce. Alternatively, roast ham may be offered as a main course and lamb is also very popular.
   One important exception from British dinner is the absence of goose, as it is not raised in New Zealand and the government prohibits importing foreign meat products. Desserts are almost without exception mince pies or Christmas pudding (or plum pudding) and brandy butter, inherited from British practices. Enjoyment of non-British Christmas foods, such as stollen from Germany, Bûche de Noël from France, and panettone from Italy, was virtually unheard of in New Zealand until the late 1990s and is still extremely rare today. Due to New Zealanders celebrating Christmas in the summer, it is also common to barbecue, and eat seasonal fruit such as cherries and strawberries. Pictured above is a Pavlova – a typical New Zealand meringue based pudding often served at Christmas (and throughout the year).

United Kingdom
Roast Goose Apple Stuffing

   Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom (and Commonwealth nations) is usually eaten in the afternoon. Dinner in the United Kingdom and in Ireland usually consists of roast turkey or roast goose (although duck is common alternatives depending on the number of diners), sometimes with ham or, to a lesser extent, pork; roast potatoes; vegetables (usually boiled or steamed), particularly brussels sprouts; stuffing; chipolatas or pigs in blankets; cranberry sauce; with dessert of Christmas pudding (or plum pudding) and brandy butter.
   In England, the evolution of the main course into turkey did not take place for years, or even centuries. At first, in Medieval England, the main course was either a peacock or a boar, the boar usually the mainstay. After the French Jesuits imported the turkey into Great Britain, it became the main course in the 1700s.
   A common tradition in the United Kingdom is to use the turkey’s wishbone to make a wish. Two people pull opposite ends of the wishbone until it breaks, with the person holding the larger fragment of the bone making a wish. The dessert of a British Christmas Dinner is almost always Christmas Pudding. Mince pies, a Christmas Cake or a Yule Log may also be eaten.

United States of America
Pumpkin-Pie01 High

   Many Christmas customs in the United States have been adopted from those in the United Kingdom, although customs from other European countries are also found. Accordingly, the mainstays of the English table are also found in the United States: cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing or dressing, corn, squash, and green beans are common. Dessert often reflects the ethnic background of the participants, but examples include pumpkin pie (pictured above), marzipan, pfeffernusse, sugar cookies, panettone, fruitcake, apple pie, carrot cake, oreo pie, and mince pie. Ham or roast beef is often served instead of turkey, particularly since turkey is the mainstay at dinner for the American holiday of Thanksgiving in November.
   Regional meals vary: Hawaii has Turkey teriyaki, Virginia has oysters and ham pie, and the Upper Midwest includes dishes from the predominately Scandinavian backgrounds such as lutefisk and mashed rutabaga or turnip. In the Southwest, especially New Mexico, a traditional Christmas dinner might include posole, tamales, empanaditas (mincemeat turnovers) and biscochitos.


     In Japan, the most practiced religions are Buddhism and Shinto.  Because of this, Christmas is a more commercial event, much like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day in the United States.  Furthermore, the main celebration revolves around Christmas Eve and not the day that is honored in the West as the day of Christ's birth.
   Though Christmas is not generally celebrated in honor of the birth of Christ, Japanese families enjoy the same focus on the importance and joy of generosity and giving.  Gift giving on Christmas is common.  In families, children believe that only Santa Kuroshu (Santa Claus)gives gifts on Christmas, so children do not give gifts to their parents.  It is believed that Santa has eyes in the back of his head so he can always see what the children are doing.  Children who do not believe in Santa don't receive gifts.


    Christmas trees and lights on homes are becoming more and more common in Japan.  Trees are often decorated with paper lanterns, origami, tinsel, and other ornaments.  Community decorations are becoming more prevalent in places like dance halls and arcades.  Stores are decorated and they sell Christmas items weeks before Christmas in Japan, much like stores in America and other Christian majority countries.  Some families even display manger scenes to tell the Christmas story, though it is thought of more along the lines of the story of Santa.
   Japanese families often enjoy a Christmas Cake on Christmas Eve.  The Christmas Cake is usually a sponge cake covered with strawberries and whipped cream.  Stores try to sell their cakes before Christmas morning, as they don't sell as well after Christmas.  Because of this, the Japanese sometimes sarcastically refer to women over the age of thirty as an "unsold Christmas Cakes".  As for other traditional food fare, turkey is difficult to find in Japan.  Most families try to celebrate with a chicken dinner, preferably the wildy popular Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Japanese Christmas cake


     Much like Valentine's Day in America, it is important for many women to have someone special with which to spend Christmas with.  Christmas Eve night is romanticized as a night of special time and gifts between two people who love each other.  It is considered sad to not have someone special with which to spend this "night for romance" with.
   Though the Christian faith only represents about 1% of the Japanese population, this originally a Christian holiday,  has become very popular and meaningful in Japan.  Over 75% of those polled report that Christmas holds special meaning for them.


     If you're considering a trip to China for the holidays, you'll find that some of their Christmas traditions are similar to ours, but many are very different.  You'll see decorated trees, beautiful lights, and many scenes similar to the ones you would see at Christmas in the United States, but in China, most of the decorations are intricate paper folding that form flowers, lanterns and chains on the tree.
   Yes, they have Santa in China, but they don't call him by the name Americans do, he's referred to as Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run), which means Christmas Old Man.  Another name for Santa is Lan Khoong.  Although most citizens of China are not of the Christian faith there are still plenty of celebrations.
   The festival where everyone celebrates the most, occurs at the end of January, call the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.  This is the time when children receive gifts of toys and clothing, every one feasts and, unlike in America, there are huge fireworks shows around the country.

Chrildren putting wishes on wall

     Whereas Americans are busy with worship, wrapping gifts, singing carols and awaiting Santa's arrival, most Chinese are remembering their ancestors.  Christmas in China is a time of remembrance for those already passed and photos are hung out of respect for them.  It's not a time of sadness, though, it's a time of celebration.
   While sightseeing in the major cities, you'll see plenty of Christmas trees and other decorations, including Nativity scenes which show Jesus.  Mary and Joseph as Chinese, with full Chinese costumes.  Christmas cards are often exchanged, but the cards look much different than they do in America, with the card depicting fish and lotuses, little Chinese kids standing by a tree, or even a Chinese Santa.


   There's lots of places to shop, where you'll find goodies for everyone on your list, but you won't see the mad rush for certain gifts that you'll experience  when shopping during the holidays in America.  If you're trying to avoid the whole holiday scene, though, there are many great things to see in China.  Check out the Beijing Zoo, or the entire city of Beijing, where you'll find much history and architecture.
   The Forbidden City is another must-see while visiting China.  With over 720,000 square meters, the place is massive.  Nearby, the Fragrant Hills Park should be on your itinerary.  And, of course, the Great Wall of China, must be seen before leaving.  Also check out the Lama Temple, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and Wo Fo Si (Temple of Reclining Buddha).


   Whether you're traveling to China to enjoy Christmas there, or you're going to avoid the commercialization of an American Christmas, you'll find exactly what you're looking for...and then some.  China is one of the most beautiful countries...holiday or not...and you'll really enjoy yourself.