Did the Santa Claus outfit come from bishop’s attire?


I don’t really know where to put this thread so I hope it’s okay I put it here…

I was on Instagram and saw this post by catholicconnect:

I thought it was very interesting. Do you think there is some truth to this?


Santa Claus as most of the world knows it today comes from Coke advertisements. It’s pretty well established that the current Santa outfit is Coke’s doing.

I’m sure the guy at Coke did draw inspiration from liturgical garb. They also drew inspration from traditional garments that people wore. But as seen with Pope Benedict, there’s quite a bit that’s now taken from modern Santa and used for good fun by the Pope.


I want to say the Santa Claus getup that we think of came from Coca-Cola’s advertising. Before, it looked like:


I love how they give him fruit instead of milk and cookies haha.

I wonder why Coke decided to plump St. Nick up? Doesn’t really make sense to me. But I can definitely see the correlation.

It does look as though in the pictures that he was portrayed in bishop’s attire. I think maybe Coke saw one picture of a particular garb, liked it, took the Catholicism out of it, and made him larger (for whatever reason).


Weight was a sign of wealth, especally in the 1920’s.

A plump Santa signified that he was in a place of oppulance and could afford to give things away.


Fun fact: the three gold balls on pawn shops are from St Nicholas’ work


For fear of stating the obvious, but Santa Claus is based on St Nicolas of Myra, who was the Bishop of Myra (in what is today Turkey). Various miracles are associated with him, but maybe the best known is that during a time of famne, an evil butcher killed three children and hid them in a vat, intending to sell them as meat, but that St Nicholas found their bodies and brought them back to life. Thus he became the patron saint and protector of children. Quite possibly the story is apocryphal and based on the misunderstanding of an old illustration. The illustration actually shows the saint baptising three adults, and through the artist’s incometence, the baptismal font looks like a meat vat. The real Saint Nicholas’ life mostly consisted of teaching and spreading the faith and he baptized very many people.

It is of course entirely correct to depict him in bishop’s attire because he was a bishop.

In many countries Saint Nicholas is still depicted in bishop’s attire today. For example in Holland and in many parts of Germany and Austria. In some parts he is accompanied by an assistant or evil countrpart. In Holland this is the Piet, who is depicted as a Spanish page, often with dark skin, which is leading to a lot of controversy of late. Further souith he mutates into the far more evil Karmpus, or Grampus, a hormed amd hooved fire demon from hell. Typically one or several people wear krampus costumes and parade through town. The coming of Saint Nicolas is the driving away of the evil Krampus.

The symbolism is connected to advent, and of light driving back the darkness in preparation of the birth of Christ. The person of Saint Nicholas has thus become attached to a different tradition, which has little to do with the Nicholas of history. But it’s not entirely misplaced as a bishop’s mitre is of course modelled on a shepherd’s staff, used both to prevent sheep wandering too far bit also to ward off wolves and other wild animals who want to harm the sheep. Nicholas thuis protects the faithful, and especially the children, against this evil wolflike figure.

This has nothing to do with Christmas by the way, as Saint Nicholas day is on 6th December, and still celbrated on that day in these parts. I don’t know how that somehow got rolled into Christmas.


One of the original stories of him is that there was a very poor man in town, who had three daughters. Over the course of three days, the saint secreted three gifts, variously either purses or balls of gold, into the house, one for each daughter. In some versions of the story, the young women hung their stockings up by the fire at night after washing them, and the gifts dropped into them.

The gifts were to be used as dowries for the young women, as in those days a woman without a dowry was considered unmarriageable. In that day and age, an unmarried woman who had no male relatives to support her would likely have to turn to prostitution to survive.


Methinks they are stretching the truth.
Which is very naughty and they can expect COAL in their stockings come Christmas morning…


The European “St. Nicholas” wore long bishop’s attire and a mitre. Still does when I go to some European-themed Christmas celebration (like a Krampus Night) in the USA. Sometimes you will read that the St. Nicholas robes were brown or some other color and that Martin Luther changed them to red robes when he left the church, or that the robes were changed to red to imitate the pagan god Thor. It still looks like a bishop’s robe to me, and bishops do wear red, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s still bishop’s attire.

The American “Santa Claus” outfit of a fat guy with red jacket and trousers trimmed in white fur was evolved over the late 19th and early 20th centuries by a series of commercial artists including Thomas Nast, Norman Rockwell, and Hadden Sundblom who worked for Coca-Cola.


Boy, a bishop in Turkey dressed like a bishop. What a scandal!


This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.