This Is Why Christmas Colors Are Red and Green

We can all thank the world's favorite soda maker.

This Is Why Christmas Colors Are Red and Green

Today, the Christmas season is just as synonymous with the colors red and green as it is with Santa Claus, caroling, and having to spend time with unwanted family members, but the truth is that this wasn’t always the case. Believe it or not, there was once a time when holiday cards would feature the colors blue and white just as often as they would red and green. That all changed in 1931, and courtesy of the world’s most popular soda maker.

“That’s when Coca-Cola hired an artist to create a Santa Claus,” Arielle Eckstut, co-author of The Secret Language of Color, explained to NPR. “They had done this before, but this particular artist created a Santa Claus that we associate with the Santa Claus today in many ways.”

The artist that Coca-Cola hired was Haddon Sundblom, and his Santa Claus was unlike anything seen before. According to Eckstut, the artist’s Kris Kringle was “fat and jolly—whereas before he was often thin and elf-like—and he had red robes. The fact that all these things came together—this friendly, fat Santa in these bright red robes… this really took a hold in American culture.” And the background color the artist chose was green.

Santa Claus on a Coca Cola Bottle {Why Christmas Colors are Red and Green} Image via Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Though it’s likely not a coincidence that the Santa that Sundblom drew wore red robes that happened to match the red color of the Coca-Cola logo, the combination of the colors red and green resonated with Americans celebrating Christmas, seeing as people were already associating holly—a red and green plant—with the holiday.

“It dates back to winter solstice celebrations with the Romans and maybe beyond,” says Sundblom. “And also, holly is associated with the crown of thorns of Jesus. And just those beautiful bright red berries and those deep green leaves are the exact colors that we really come to think about when we think about Christmas.”

So, whether Sundblom knew what he was doing or not, his Santa sketches served to unite the winter solstice festivities of yesteryear with the Christmas celebrations of today. And for more amazing knowledge on the evolution of Christmas, don’t miss these 17 Famous Christmas Traditions No One Does Anymore.

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