Coca-Cola Art: Santa Claus & Christmas Around the World

Santa Claus is without a doubt the most recognizable figure associated with Christmas. Santa stands for goodness, kindness and a generous, giving spirit. Today, Santa is an essential part of Christmas celebration, but the modern role and image of Santa Claus saw the light in early America of the 19th century. Dutch, British and American influences came together to give us the Santa Claus that we all know today: the jolly old man with his red & white costume, distributing gifts with his team of elves and reindeers.

The name Santa Claus was Anglicized from “Sinterklaas,” the Dutch word for Saint Nicholas, famous gift-giver and protector of children. It is believed the legend of Santa was brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus, who, upon arriving in Haiti, named a port after the patron saint. In 1621, when the Dutch landed on the New York island of Manhattan, they erected a statue of Saint Nicholas as a tribute to him for their successful journey.

In 1809, Washington Irving (a member of the NYC Historical Society which promoted St. Nicholas as its patron saint), created a tale of a chubby, pipe-smoking Saint Nicholas who rode a magic horse through the air visiting all houses in New York. The elfish figure was small enough to slide down chimneys with gifts for the good children and switches for the bad ones.
The works of writer Clement Clark Moore and the cartoons of Thomas Nast had also a big influence on the present form of Santa. The stories of St. Nicholas, Santa Clause and Kriss Kringle mingled to the new character of Santa Claus, the sum total of several stories, customs and beliefs.

Around the world, most people know Santa Claus and have local-language names for Santa – even if they come from countries where Christmas is not celebrated. Santa or similar gift givers go by these translations in the following countries: “Le Père Noël” (France and Québec), “Weihnachtsmann” or “Nikolaus” (Germany), Papá Noel” (Spain and Mexico), “Joulupukki” (Finland), “Julenissen” (Norway), “Juletomten” (Sweden), “Babadimri” (Albania), “Gaghant Baba” (Armenia), “” (Denmark), “Babbo Natale” (Italy), “Papai Noel” (Brazil), “Санта-Клаус” (Russia), “Ježíšek” (Czech Republic), “Święty Mikołaj” (Poland), “Pai Natal” (Portugal), “Moş Crăciun” (Romania), “Daidí na Nollag” (Ireland and Scottish Highlands), “Dyado Koleda” (Bulgaria), “Noel Baba” (Turkey), “Deda Mraz” (Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina). But our favorite is without a doubt the Afghanese name for Santa: “Baba Chaghaloo”. And the Chinese name also sounds very cool: Sheng Dan Lauw Yeh Yeh (phonetics of 圣诞老爷, which means “Christmas Old Man”).

In England Father Christmas is a stern version of Santa Claus who brings gifts on Christmas Eve. In France “Pere Noel” brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace. In Germany families go to church on Christmas Eve. While they are at church the “Christkind” or Christ Child brings presents to their homes. In Switzerland the “Christkindl” or Christ Child brings the gifts. In some towns, Christkindl is an angel who comes down from heaven to give gifts.

The Dutch “Sinterklaas” arrives by boat from Spain. Children leave their shoe on the eve of 6th December filled with hay and carrots for the donkey which carries St. Nicholas’ pack of toys. Children get toys and candy. In Sweden, a gnome called “Juletomten” brings gifts in a sleigh driven by goats.
In Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain, Mexico, South America, children wait until January 6th for their presents. The Three Kings or Wise Men bring the gifts. Children put shoes by the front door to get their gifts. There is usually a big procession through the streets with floats for each of the Wise men. In Italy “La Befana” is a good witch who dresses all in black. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace on the eve of January 6th. Befana comes down the chimney on her broomstick to leave gifts. In Australia, Santa rides waterskis, has a white beard and red bathing suit and sometimes even has “bikini helpers”.

When the name Santa Claus is mentioned anywhere in America today, the image that invariably comes to mind is the one created by Haddon Sundblom for the Coca-Cola Company. From 1931 to 1964, Sundblom painted new Santa illustrations to use in the Coca-Cola Christmas advertising. Today, Coca-Cola continues to use Sundblom’s Santa Claus artworks. Many of his Santa paintings have toured museums and art institutes around the world. The smiling figure still appears regularly on posters and in magazines, newspapers, calendars, Christmas tree ornaments, serving trays and glassware.

Coca-Cola Christmas artworks by RockAndRoll Agency. Art Direction: Wouter De Coster. Brand Team Coca-Cola: Guy Rombouts & Bram Clincke. All Rights Reserved © The Coca-Cola Company.

Andy Warhol – Pop Art Revolution

Andy Warhol’s Pop Art plays on everyone’s fantasies of an inaccessible glamour and celebrity, as embodied in Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, Jackie Kennedy and Mick Jagger. At the same time, his art demonstrates, over and over, that Marilyn and Elvis, Jackie and Mick are available to everyone, as if they were a can of Coca-Cola.

With his pop painting incorporating images of consumer products and movie stars, Warhol addressed the changes brought about in our society through mass communications and mass productions. In a way that was daring and yet instantly accessible, he reflected the contemporary culture of the United States, and therefore of a world culture that was coming more and more under the American influence. Beyond that, by creating artworks that looked indistinguishable from consumer products such as Coca-Cola bottles or Campbell cans, Warhol presented us with genuine philosophical challenges – which, remarkably enough, everybody understood. As for Warhol’s impact on society, he invented a new approach to America’s fascination with celebrity. He became a celebrity himself, something that had been done before by only a few American artists.

“Everybody has their own America, and then they have pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see. When I was little, I never left Pennsylvania, and I used to have fantasies about things that I thought were happening…that I felt I was missing out on. But you can only live life in one place at a time… You live in your dream America that you’ve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in your real one”.
Andy Warhol, 1985

Warhol had lived in just such a fantasy America since his childhood days, when he began collecting autographed photos of movie actors.

Andy Warhol’s father Andrej Warhola, born in 1886, emigrated from Mikova, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, to the United States around 1913 and found work as a coal miner. His wife Julia Zavacky (born in 1892), who had married Andrej in 1909, stayed behind; she was unable to follow him to America until 1921. The following year, Julia gave birth to her first child, Paul, and in 1925 to the second, John. Her youngest, Andy, was born in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928. In Pittsburgh, Andrej Warhola became a laborer in heavy construction. To help support the family, Julia made paper flowers, which she planted in tin cans and sold door-to-door.

The young Andy loved drawing, painting, cutting designs from paper and reading, specially comics and magazines. With Julia’s blessing, Andy skipped grades one and five at elementary school and took free classes in studio art and art appreciation at nearby Carnegie Institute. A few years later, when Andy was 13 years old, Andrej Warhol fell ill and died from tuberculous peritonitis.

In 1945, at age 17, Andy enrolled in the College of Fine Arts of Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he majored in pictorial design. During his summer vacations, he worked as a window dresser at Horne’s department store. Warhol also taught art part-time at the Irene Kaufmann Settlement.
In 1949, a week after his college graduation, Warhol moved to Manhattan where he started a career as a commercial artist. His first assignment was to illustrate an article in Glamour magazine, “Success is a Job in New York.”

As Andy Warhol wrote in 1975, “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke”.
The combination of celebrity worship and consumerism was the keystone of Warhol’s unique pop vision.

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