In my family we were used to celebrate Christmas like the old times. It was quite predictable, as we went to church to pray, celebrate Jesus Christ's birth, watch the Christmas cantata, give a hug on friends... Then we got back home, and a comforting cozy-and-festive weather was waiting for us. That was Christmas like it was used to be, like we learned that it should be.
There was a complicity feeling of sharing the "Christmas spirit", like it's used to say, whatever this can be. Maybe it could be a mutual sensation of satisfaction religiously cherished. And I'm still pleased of having a joined family around this variety of Christmas peculiarities: smiles printed at everyone's faces, long hugs, shared kindness, the proper table cloth, food and shared stories.
But the time goes by and, day after day, Christmas is more and more a consumerist boom totally without mercy. If you could ring the metal ring of a bell before, now the frantic sound of credit cards can be heard. Christ leaves the stage and here comes the friendly old man dressed on red trousers. The son of God is not that remembered anymore when the subject is Santa Claus.
But he is not remembered on a proper way -- he was originally inspired on a simple man with a simple story and a simple life. It has nothing with capitalism, which transformed him on a symbol and, on its turn, transformed Christmas on an elitist event.
Santa Claus' legend is inspired by Saint Nicholas, also called Nikolaos of Myra, who lived in turkey during the 4th century. He was used to help those who were in need depositing a small bag with golden coins, what could be put into the houses through the chimney. During the winter, he rescued poor kids from the streets, feeding and dressing them. Famous by his generosity, many events taken as a miracle were tribute to him.
His believers started to imitate him, especially during winter times. Then we understand the uprising of Santa Claus' figure and why so many people are taken by solidarity on Christmas' eve.
Meanwhile, the feeling that inspired this story, which shows up the best side of humanity, almost entirely disappeared and what prevailed on its place was a thirst for consumption and a obligatory sense of satisfying this thirst. And this good old man, inspired by generosity and donation, turned into a capitalist insignia.
There wasn't a unanimous image about Santa Claus in past times. He was illustrated in so many ways, with varied lines and styles. Some figures portrayed a thin man that was so much more reserved than this smiling Claus we know by now. In some countries, he was used to be portrayed with Episcopal dresses, usually in green tones combining with other sober tones.
Around 1886, a famous German cartoonist called Thomas Nast designed Santa Claus on winter red clothes, like we know him today. The illustration was made for the North-American's magazine Harper's Weeklys. Despite what many people think, Santa Claus' clothes have no connections with Coke's trade. By the way, Coke isn't the owner of Santa Claus' marks or even created him. But it has a powerful merit on the process of establishing this Christmas figure as we know today.
During a long time Coke saw its sales considerably decreasing during winter, occasioning a huge loss for this trade. But in 1931 the company decided to turn this picture upside down with one of the most famous and significant advertising campaigns that we have notice. That's the reason why Haddon Sundblom was hired, in order to create a new version of this Christmas character. "A refreshing break" would be the slogan. And it worked. The campaign, which purposed Santa Claus drinking this soft drink, levered the Coke sales during winter and perpetuated the image of this good old man.
This full bodied and friendly Santa Claus as we know was curiously inspired by the Sundbloom's retired neighbor. This figure quickly won the world on a huge success.
Sundbloom was the responsible for Coke's Christmas advertising until 1964. He died in 1976 -- and confessed to Rolling Stone magazine that he never thought that this famous soft drink was tasty.
Before Coke, however, Santa Claus' figure was also used on some advertising. But this 1931's on -- with Sundbloom -- started a turning point that made us see Santa really like a effusive old man who promotes consumption instead of Christmas spirit. Who can blame this old man? And Santa Claus keeps on laughing of it all. And he laughs with so much enthusiasm that it looks like there's no other way of fixing things up here.