We served you a spread of weird facts about Christmas a couple days ago. If you read that list, you may have noticed something — Santa was missing.
That’s because we felt Mr. Claus deserves a list of his own. You may think you know the Santa lore, from being based on St. Nicholas to living on the North Pole, but believe us, you know nothing.
1) Santa Didn’t Always Dress in Red
The Santa we know today — the jolly, plump old man dressed in a red suit — is actually a very recent invention. To begin with, Santa didn’t use to always don red.
Santa of the ages past dressed in pretty much any color he pleased. We have old depictions of Santa wearing green, brown, blue, and even a drab tan.
In some countries, these alternative Santa colorations are still more common than red. That’s because…
2) Coca-Cola Created the Modern Santa for Ads
Yep, Santa is a total and complete shill for Coke, wearing their brand colors every single year. But we suppose that’s understandable, since the Coca-Cola Company pretty much created his modern look.
Before Coke got its mitts on Santa, he wasn’t always a happy fat man. Sometimes he was portrayed even as a terrifying, gaunt creature, or some kind of a goat-human hybrid.
In general, that’s not a look that sells soda. So, in 1931, Coca-Cola hired illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create a more appealing Santa look.
Sundblom based his vision of Santa on the poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Coke ads featuring his jolly, red-clad Santa were so prevalent that they single-handedly made the public’s image of Santa match Coke’s branding.
3) Rudolph Also Got His Start in Ads
Santa isn’t the only Christmas tradition spawned by the American advertising industry. That also includes his lead reindeer, Rudolph.
In 1939, the Montgomery Ward department store asked copywriter Robert L. May to create a Christmas story they could use in their advertising. May penned a tale about a reindeer with a shiny nose that helps Santa guide his sleigh through the dark night.
The store chain wasn’t initially thrilled about Rudolph, since a red nose was at the time associated with drunkards. But after seeing some sketches of the adorable reindeer, the executives relented and Rudolph went down in history.
Speaking of Santa’s reindeer…
4) Santa Has Castrated His Reindeer
Santa’s reindeer (with the occasional exceptions of Vixen and Cupid) are usually portrayed as male. There’s just one problem with that — they have antlers.
Male reindeer shed their antlers in the fall and spend the winter bare-headed. Female reindeer, on the other hand, keep their antlers throughout the year.
But Santa’s reindeer, in all depictions, are always antlered. That means that they’re either female, or that Santa has castrated them.
Castration stops male reindeer from shedding their antlers like they normally would. So, either the reindeer’s names don’t match their gender, or Santa’s snipped off their jingling bells.
You can decide for yourself which you want to believe in.
5) Author of “Sleepy Hollow” Taught Santa How to Use the Chimney
We’re not sure how he does it, but Santa always enters through the chimney. But he didn’t learn that trick until 1812.
And the man who taught him how to do that was Washington Irving. The man’s better known as the author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and the creator of the Headless Horseman.
In 1812, Irving wrote and published a tongue-in-cheek, satirical story titled “Knickerbocker’s History of New York.” This is the first known occasion where Santa comes tumbling down the chimney.
“’Twas the Night Before Christmas” made the chimney-dwelling Santa more publicly acceptable. But the inventor of the idea was undeniably Irving.
6) Santa Doesn’t (Necessarily) Live on the North Pole
American folklore states that Santa’s workshop and residence are on the North Pole. But the location of his home is actually a topic of heated debate worldwide.
You can find the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. With a name like that, you’d imagine this is the place, but it’s not official.
In fact, the Official Santa Claus Office in Santa Claus Christmas Village is located in Rovaniemi in the Finnish Lapland. However, folk tales from Finland claim he lives on the Korvatunturi fell, even further up north near the Russian border.
Meanwhile, the Swedish, for example, insist that Santa lives in the Gesunda Mountain in south-central Sweden. And in the Netherlands, Sinterklaas arrives from Spain on a steam boat.
And then there’s Saint Nicholas, who actually lived in what is today Turkey. So, which is it?
Maybe Mr. Claus just splits his time between multiple residences.