There’s a rumor that one of history’s most famous influencers turned out to be a fake.

An influencer that inspires millions of people around the world to behave their nicest and celebrate with festive cheer.

Rumor has it that the Santa Clause that we’ve come to know and love was created by Coca Cola in the 1930s featuring their brand colors.

Could it be that the jolly red guy himself was an elaborate marketing campaign all along?

With a history spanning hundreds of years and dozens of cultures, the answer isn’t so simple.

Middle Eastern Origins of Santa Clause

In 4th century Lycia where modern day Turkey stands lived a Bishop called Nicholas. Nicholas was known as a kind and generous man. In secret he gave money to children in need. 

Nicholas was so beloved that after his death he became known as the patron saint of children.

Journey to Europe

As the centuries passed, tales of Saint Nicholas spread to Europe and were taken to heart particularly in Germany, Poland, Belgium, and Holland. There he became known as Sinterklas.

Sinterklas was influenced by the region’s rich Norse mythology, specifically by the god of Odin. One doesn’t need to look hard to see the resemblance between the two.

A whole new world

In the 17th century many Dutch settlers arrived in the US. With them they brought the stories of Sinterklas who became known as Santa Clause.

As the years passed, elements of Santa’s character began coming together bit by bit.

Washington Irving in his 1809 book described Santa visiting comes every years on a sleigh and sliding down chimneys to deliver presents.

In 1823 in the poem “The night before Christmas” Santa was described as being jolly and round.

Before this Santa clause wasn’t quite the character we’ve come to know. He wore green, was skinny, and altogether more a more serious fella.

In the 1860s this began to shift with Thomas Nast’s famous drawings of the character. Although very similar to the modern incarnation of Santa, he wasn’t tied to the color red just yet.

Santa and Coca Cola

It wasn’t until 1931 that Coca Cola hired Haddon Sundblom who drew the iconic ads with Santa Clause dressed in all red.

The belief is that it is thanks to these illustrations that the modern day image of Santa had become popular.

Wether that is true is hard to know. It’s clear that Santa wearing red wasn’t unheard of at the time. These White Rock ads from the 1920s for example featured a very familiar Santa in red.

What can influencers learn from Santa? 

The one thing this story shows for certain is that to harness the power of influence, whether it’s as a brand or a creator, you don’t have to be first or to reinvent the wheel.

The key is to look at the trends happening around you, to look at the culture and the stories, and to build on them with your own unique touch.