Did Coca-Cola really give Father Christmas his Red Coat?

Published: 04/03/2020 by Kayleigh Walter

There are a lot of myths surrounding the origin of the colour of Father Christmas’ coat. Once upon a time, Father Christmas would be dressed from head to toe in green and looked very different then he does today.

The truth is that there was no real consistency for the jolly old fella, sometimes he would be tall and lean, other times he could look like a forest elf and sometimes he would even wear a tan coat! Most common sitings of Father Christmas before the 1920s consisted of a thin man with a long beard dressed head to toe in green, the colour of the forest. He was there to help the less fortunate and entertain children.

Image: permaculture.co.uk

Now when I was growing up Father Christmas' coat was red, had been for as long as I could remember and when I asked why I was always told that Father Christmas’ coat was red because Coca-Cola changed the colour of his green coat to fit in with their brand colours for their Christmas campaign. They took a well-known figure and changed his design to fit in with their marketing - a clever tactic, but one that is untrue

The truth is that Coca-Cola has been using Father Christmas in their advertising since the 1920s through the first version was stern and lacked a homely quality. It wasn't until the 1930s when Coca-Cola asked illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create an actual Santa, rather than depicting a man dressed up as him.

Image: Coca-Cola

Plenty of research went into creating a happy, warm Father Christmas that would be appealing and friendly with Sundblom’s salesmen friend model. The truth is that Father Christmas had been depicted in red before and the colour was chosen because it worked with their branding.

Though they might have not branded Father Christmas with their colours and simply lucked out with the colour red being used previously, Coca-Cola had a lot to do with the way we see Father Christmas now. Friendly and jolly with a big white beard and a happy expression. Without the work of Haddon Sundblom, Father Christmas would look a lot different today.

So, there you have it, the truth! Coca-Cola did not invent Father Christmas’ red coat but they are responsible for the jolly figure we know and love today.