The legend of St, Nicholas began in the fourth century but the depiction of Santa Claus as we know him dates from about the late 1700's. However, the truly modern white-bearded, white-haired Santa with the red suit and white trim, big black belt and black boots, rosy cheeks and spectacles, has only been around since Coca-Cola portrayed him in their ads. That's the Santa we still use today and the one I remember. Here are a few Santa figures from our collection.

When I was a very little kid, Santa left me this little plastic figure of himself with a batch of suckers in his bag (he's the one on the right.) 

I polished off the suckers but saved Santa from that Christmas of 1944. He's been on every Christmas tree I've had for over 75 years. That started a lifetime of collecting Santa figures.

Coca Cola has tried to take credit for inventing Santa. They did give us the look of the modern Santa in their 1931 Christmas campaign when they tried to tell us Coke was just as tasty and refreshing in the winter as summer. But since Old Saint Nick forgot to patent his persona, Pepsi jumped in and depicted a Santa of their own:

Not only did the white booted Pepsi Santa have the company logo as a belt buckle,  he's holding a miniature bottle of their product:

Here's a neat Santa in his sleigh. This was marketed in the 1950's and came in a cardboard box advertised as the reindeer barn. Looks like Santa didn't have Rudolph or most of the eight tiny reindeer yet.

Maybe Santa didn't weigh as much back then and it only took Dancer and Prancer to pull him along. Here's Santa Claus from right after WWII when a lot of America's small toys were made in Japan. Looks like Santa is riding a little tin tricycle with a bell that has rabbits on it. The same toy was marketed at Easter with the Easter Bunny riding.

Here's another Santa Claus figure from Japan where, until the American occupation forces arrived after WWII, they may never have heard of Santa and didn't know what he looked like.

Well, it kinda looks like Santa Claus, but if you turn it upside down you get a punked out sad Kris Kringle:

 

The Japanese folks that made these probably didn't think of that.

Here's a final one. Looks like Santa is pretty happy. He must have modeled for this figure after Christmas was over:

Now that looks like the Santa we know except.... If we believe Santa can travel across the Earth and visit every child in one night, surely we can accept that those little tiny feet can support this big fellow.

Many times in my 60 year career in radio I have been asked to play Santa. I was a bit large for a "jolly elf" and we had to hire a few more reindeer to get me off the ground, but it was fun.

Here's me at the first Christmas I remember-1944. That little Santa  figure with the suckers is in that photo somewhere.