Believe it or not, there's a solid case for the modern day image of Santa being created by The Coca-Cola Company.
Although the real Saint Nicholas existed over 1,600 years ago in Turkey, the fictional version who gave presents to children on Christmas did not exist until much later. However, the real St. Nicholas was known for gift-giving.
Until 1931, Santa was largely seen as a small elf-like figure. It was then, in the midst of the Great Depression, that Coke began distributing the jolly, fat image of St. Nick in its advertisements.
Since then, the company's stuck with this version of Santa Claus. Haddon Sundblom, the artist, continued to depict Santa this way, drinking Coca-Cola, well into the 1960s.
And the legacy continued. Television commercials consistently show a jolly Santa Claus, even if he's just on the back of a truck.
The concept of Santa's elves could have something to do with Coca-Cola, too. In the 1940s, Coca-Cola advertisements showed Santa with his “Sprite Boy.” By the time they introduced the Sprite flavor in the 1960s, the lemon-lime soda drink was readymade for the holidays.
We contacted Coca-Cola, asking for an interview. However, after an initial phone call, we never heard back from them. On its website, the company admits that “Coca-Cola helped shape the image of Santa Claus.”
There's certainly some evidence that Coco-Cola didn't just help shape the image, but completely affected our image of him entirely. Either way, Santa seems to make kids happy—especially if he has a Coke in his hand.