Super Size Santa: Why is Santa so big now?

Media from the offices of Broadway

Super Size Santa: Why is Santa so big now?

by | Dec 6, 2017

You may be cutting calories this holiday season, but there’s one man who isn’t: Santa! Today, Santa is known as the full-figured man whose love of gift giving is only outweighed by his love of Christmas cookies. However, this was not always the case. Over the years, images of Santa have morphed from a tall, lean older gentleman to the portly figure we know and love today. So why the change? We’ll find out why the image of Santa has changed over the years and how to avoid a similar fate this holiday season.

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Inspiration for Santa

There were two main inspirations which have morphed into the Santa we see every holiday season: Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas. Saint Nicholas, whose feast day is the 6th of December, was a monk who was known for his generous character. He became a bishop in modern-day Turkey and was known for giving away nearly all his belongings, choosing to devote his life to worship and giving. One story from his time (around 270-343 A.D.) stated that after visiting a poor man who had no dowry for his three daughters, St. Nick left three purses of gold coins in stockings drying by the fire. The phrase “stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there” likely came from a variant of that story. Most illustrations of St. Nicholas, however, are of a skinny man with or without a white beard.

Father Christmas also helped lay the groundwork for the Santa figure we know today. One of the earliest mentions of Father Christmas came in a 13th century carol which actually referred to “Ser Christemas.” In illustrations, a full, snow-white beard graces his face. However, he favors family feasts over gift giving, choosing to share in meals instead of handing out purses full of gold. While the face of Father Christmas may be similar to Santa’s, he is typically seen in a large green coat – not red. He is also typically a lean figure. So how, then, did these figures morph into the jolly, round elf we know as Santa?


When Did Santa Start Swelling?

To answer that question, we need to fast forward a bit. One of the earliest mentions of Santa as large comes from the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1822. It is better known by its first line “‘Twas the night before Christmas.” However, it was actually a string of Coca Cola ads from the 1930s which solidified the look with his recognizable red coat hugging him snugly round the middle. As it turns out, the best way to sell soda during the winter months was will a jolly, jiggly elf, not a svelte Santa. Other depictions of Santa’s large belly appear throughout history, but these two were most prolific in changing his body type from the lean character we once knew into the portly, round-faced man who now graces our Christmas cards. To be fair, however, Santa could be getting larger due to the centuries of Christmas cookies. At some point they had to catch up with him, right?

Avoid Santa Syndrome This Christmas

You’d think that even after all the Christmas cookies, going up and down all those chimneys would lead to a Santa slim down, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Trim the tree and your waistline this winter by eating right and staying active. Remember that and savor your holiday snacks this time instead of loading up on cookies like Santa. Also, joining a gym and getting regular exercise is important. Santa’s only exercise that we know of comes but once per year. To keep the belly full of jelly at bay, you’ll likely have to work harder than the Christmas King. Fortunately, if you’re in a bind and need to shed some holiday pounds quickly, you can call the Broadway Plastic Surgery Center to decide if surgery is the Christmas miracle you’ve been needing.


Well there it is. Next time you hear Mrs. Claus ask “who ever heard of a skinny Santa?” while watching the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll know the answer is “historically speaking: everyone!”

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