The Invention of Santa Claus: From Thomas Nast to Coca-Cola

Père Janvier, Father Christmas, Christkindl, Santa Claus…Whatever name you happen to give him, Father Christmas and his origins still spur controversy. Coca-Cola may have claimed ownership of the symbol and widely circulated the image of a bearded and smiling Father Christmas, yet the brand didn’t actually invent anything. Much earlier, the American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) fashioned Father Christmas’s image on the pages of the American magazine Harper’s Weekly.

The character of Father Christmas is believed to descend from Bishop Nicholas of Myra, who lived in the 4th century. Historians set his birth at between 250 and 270 in Lycia, present-day southwestern Turkey, and estimate that he became the Bishop of Myra around 315. Curiously, the Church celebrates his birthday not on December 6, but on the day of his death. Saint Nicholas was popular in his lifetime, and had the reputation of being a miracle maker. His most famous achievement was the resurrection of three young boys killed and placed in a salting tub by a butcher. The episode led him to be regarded as the


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