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Is it true that the Coca-Cola company is responsible for the creation of the Modern Santa Claus? e.g. as seen in the attached image

                                                    

Image Source: The Coca-Cola Company Web Site

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Here is what the Coca Cola Company says:

It's a common misconception that Santa wears a red coat because red is the color of Coca-Cola.

Santa

In fact, Santa appeared in a red coat before artist Haddon Sundblom painted him for Coca-Cola advertising.

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.

Thomas Nast's Santa Claus The Coming of Santa Claus by Thomas Nast


Snopes also debunks the claim:

Snopes

BUT:

All this isn't to say that Coca-Cola didn't have anything to do with cementing the modern image of Santa Claus in the public consciousness.

In an era before the advent of television, before color motion pictures became common, and before the widespread use of color in newspapers, Coca-Cola's magazine advertisments, billboards, and point-of-sale store displays were for many Americans their primary exposure to the modern Santa Claus image.

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    I, especially like the last paragraph of your answer. Thanks – Lelouch Lamperouge Jun 12 '11 at 0:49
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    Good answer, but a little too USA sided. I'm quite sure, that no or not many Civil War cartoons from Thomas Nast made it to Europe. There the Coca-Cola ads were most likely the only exposure to the red Santa (in Germany actually the similar Weihnachtsmann, engl. "Chrismas-Man") and therefore it wouldn't be red in Europe if it wouldn't be for Coca-Cola. – Martin Scharrer Jun 12 '11 at 7:16
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    @Martin - Good point about Europe, especially since Santa Claus is (at least partially) based on the dutch Sinterklaas. In Austria there have been complaints that the american Weihnachtsmann is replacing the more traditional Christkind. – Oliver_C Jun 12 '11 at 8:43
  • For the German speaking readers: Der Mythos vom Coca-Cola Weihnachtsmann – Oliver_C Jun 12 '11 at 8:45
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    @Oliver_C: Indeed, the Weihnachtsmann vs. Christkind issue is also present in Germany. – Martin Scharrer Jun 13 '11 at 7:01

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