This post may contain affiliate links. Please check out my privacy policy and disclosure for more information.

Once upon a time, someone decided that Father Christmas should be red. Not gold, not green or any of the other Christmas colours… but red. So why is father Christmas red?

Think of Father Christmas for a moment; whether it’s the decoration on your tree or the guy on your Christmas cards. I’m willing to be that when you think of Father Christmas (or Père Noël or whatever you call him), you’re probably thinking of a slightly larger guy with a white beard and blue eyes. Oh, and he’ll be wearing velvety red robes with white fur trim. This incredibly European version of Santa Claus probably originated in the Victorian era and isn’t all that old. Because the actual Father Christmas was based on a real-life person. Saint Nicholas was a 4th Century bishop who lived in what is now modern-day Turkey and was known for his incredible generosity.

However, Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas weren’t always linked or even the same person. In fact, Christmas was personified before any associations with the Saint were made. The first personification of Christmas dates all the way back to the 15th Century in the English-speaking world. In other parts of the world, it’s thought that the tradition may even go back further. Father Christmas as we see him today with the jolly robes began in 19th century England.

Did Coca-Cola Make Santa Claus go red and why is Father Christmas red?

People often grumble about major corporations having too much of an influence over the festive season. But not this time. The well-versed myth that Coca-cola is the reason that Santa Claus is red is just that: a myth.

Way before Coca-cola was drunk by anyone, or even invented, Father Christmas could often be found wearing his iconic red robes. Although he was sometimes depicted in green and brown robes, more often than not it was the red ones! This is probably down to the fact that the original Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, more often than not wore traditional red Bishop’s robes. However, what coca-cola did do was encourage the idea that he was a larger, older guy with a massive beard.

Before this period, Santa was depicted in all sorts of ways; he could be depicted extra tall, incredibly short, elfin or even particularly thin. So, in a way, Coca-cola has left its mark on Christmas and Santa Claus, if not in the way which everyone thinks…

And if you don’t believe me, then check out these surprisingly creepy depictions of Father Christmas prior to Coca-Cola… Oh, and an early version of Father Christmas rode a goat.

why is father christmas redwhy is father christmas red

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!


  • Steve
    27th November 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Actually the green Father Christmas pre-dates St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) and was a pagan tradition. It was very convenient for Coca Cola to use their marketing might to splurge images of the corporate red and white suited character, grown fat on excessively sweet beverages, across the globe.

    I vote for a return to the green Father Christmas and a move away from Yuletide over consumption, towards a more sustainable, caring winter season.

  • Alan
    6th January 2017 at 11:14 am

    i had always believed the Coke thing, great article


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.