Santa Clause has roots in the Åland archipelago

The happy, chubby and fizzy-drink-loving Santa Claus who was drawn for Coca-Cola in the 1930s has roots in the Åland archipelago. Now Coca-Cola’s Christmas truck has visited Åland to mark the popular Santa Claus’s Ålander heritage.

He is dressed in red and has a long, slightly curly white beard and rosy cheeks. The image of the chubby and happy Santa Claus used by the Coca-Cola drinks company since 1931 has reached what could be described as iconic status.

But who was it who drew this popular Santa Claus figure? Well, the artist’s name was Haddon Sundblom and his family roots were in the Åland archipelago. Haddon’s father came from Föglö, a little island municipality southwest of Åland’s main island.

"Little christmas" and christmas on Åland

Haddon himself was born in the USA, where his father had emigrated to with his Swedish wife. But who knows, maybe Haddon was influenced by the Ålander Christmas traditions when he drew his classic Santa Claus?

Christmas is a popular festival in Åland, and it’s even celebrated twice, first on “Lillajul”, on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent, and then as normal on 24 December, Christmas Eve. Lillajul is an old tradition and a popular one. It’s like the regular Christmas, but on a slightly smaller scale. The Christmas tree is smaller – just one metre tall. Christmas presents for Lillajul are smaller and the Christmas buffet has fewer dishes. Lillajul is also the start of Christmas celebrations generally, and the whole month of December is filled up with Christmas markets, Christmas concerts and Christmas buffets in restaurants. On Christmas Eve, after the traditional declaration of Christmas peace, it’s time to go home, gather with the family and wait for the Santa – that in many ways reminds a lot the figure Haddon drew for Coca-Cola – to knock on the door.

Santa Claus on Åland stamps

Coca-Cola opted to send their Christmas truck on a journey to Mariehamn this year just before Christmas because of their Santa Claus’s Ålander heritage. The Ålanders are proud of Haddon, who created over 40 different paintings of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola between 1931 and 1964. In the past, tribute had been paid to Haddon with the issue of a stamp featuring his Santa Claus, and the Åland Museum had organised an exhibition of Haddon’s memorable advertising banners.

Santa Claus's first cruise

The Christmas truck has visited over 300 places around the world in the last 20 years, but this was the first time it went on a cruise – it drove on board Viking Lines’ red ship to make its way from Turku over to Åland. When it arrived, it travelled around, decorated with Christmas lights and Haddon’s pot-bellied Santa Claus painted on its red trailer. A Santa Claus who actually looked particularly happy to see the beautiful wintry archipelago landscape!

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