Uproar after bishop tells kids 'Santa was made up by Coca-Cola'

·3-min read

A Roman Catholic diocese has publicly apologised after a bishop was accused of telling children Santa Claus didn't exist, which led to an outcry on social media.

During a recent religious festival, Bishop Antonio Stagliano from Sicily reportedly told children Santa didn't exist and the red costume he usually wears was the invention of the Coca-Cola company, the Associated Press reported.

Following outrage on social media, Bishop Stagliano clarified his comments about Santa and what he said to the children.

"I didn't tell the kids that Santa doesn't exist, but we talked about the need to distinguish what's real from what's not," he said

"So I gave the example of Saint Nicholas of Myra, a saint who brought gifts to the poor. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition he then became Santa Claus, but certainly not the Santa Claus created by Coca-Cola."

Santa Claus rides a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in New York.
A bishop in Italy told children Santa Claus was not real. Source: AP

Christian culture about giving not gifts, says bishop

In the statement issued by the diocese of Noto, it said Stagliano's intention was not to disappoint children and said as a bishop, he needed to preach Christian values at Christmas.

"I wanted to explain that a consumer culture such as that of gifts is different from a culture of giving which is at the basis of the true message of Christmas," he said.

"Baby Jesus was born to give himself to the whole of humanity."

The diocesan communications director, the Reverened Alessandro Paolino, said Bishop Stagliano was trying to underline the true meaning of Christmas and the story of St Nicholas, a bishop who gave gifts to the poor and was persecuted by a Roman emperor.

"We certainly must not demolish the imagination of children, but draw good examples from it that are positive for life," Paolino said.

"So Santa Claus is an effective image to convey the importance of giving, generosity and sharing.

"But when this image loses its meaning, you see Santa Claus aka consumerism, the desire to own, buy, buy and buy again, then you have to revalue it by giving it a new meaning."

Bishop Antonio Staglianò apologised for his comments regarding Santa. Source: Diocese of Noto
Bishop Antonio Staglianò apologised for his comments regarding Santa. Source: Diocese of Noto

While several welcomed the bishop's attempt to focus on the Catholic meaning of Christmas, others faulted Stagliano for interfering with family traditions and celebrations, and crushing the spirits of children whose early years were disrupted by the pandemic.

"You are the demonstration that, when it comes to families, children and family education, you don't understand a thing," a commenter wrote in response to the diocese.

One person expressed concern consumerism overshadowed the meaning of Christmas.

Did Coca-Cola invent Santa Claus?

It seems as though the Coca-Cola Company gets this question a lot, as it has a whole page dedicated to whether the image of Santa was created by the company.

"Coca-Cola did not create the legend of Santa Claus. But Coca-Cola advertising did play a big role in shaping the jolly character we know today," the company said.

In 1931, Coca-Cola commissioned an illustrator by the name of Haddon Sundblom to paint Santa for their Christmas advertisements.

Artist Haddon Sundblom's depiction of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola helped shape what he looks like today. Source: Getty Images
Artist Haddon Sundblom's depiction of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola helped shape what he looks like today. Source: Getty Images

The company said before 1931, Santa was often depicted as everything from "a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf".

A cartoonist, Thomas Nast, drew Santa for three decades and over time, his coat went from tan, to red, which is often how Santa is depicted today.

For the 1931 Coca-Cola campaign, Sundblom drew inspiration from the 1822 poem, 'A Visit From St Nicholas' by Clement Clark.

With Associated Press

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