Coca-Cola Christmas Lorry Tour

Published on: 15/11/21

“Holidays are coming, holidays are coming!” For millions of us, the image of the Coca Cola Christmas delivery truck driving through a snowy wonderland means the countdown to the festive season has really started!

But did you know the cheery red truck, bedecked with twinkly lights, could be driving out of your TV screen and into your neighbourhood?

Coca-Cola and Christmas

A velvety red Santa suit with a white fur trim, a thick, snowy beard, and a jolly face: the Coca‑Cola Santa plays a part in all of our Christmases. Coca-Cola did not create the legend of Santa Claus, but their advertising did play a big role in shaping the jolly character we know today, helping to define the look and personality of the modern Father Christmas.

Before 1931, there were many different depictions of Santa Claus around the world, including a tall gaunt man and an elf- even a scary Claus! But in 1931, Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to paint Santa for Christmas advertisements, to remind people that they could drink Coke all year round- not just on summery afternoons.

Sundblom drew inspiration from an 1822 poem by Clement Clark Moore called ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’- commonly known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’. His paintings established Santa as a warm, happy character with human features, including rosy cheeks, a white beard, twinkling eyes and laughter lines. And even though it's often said that Santa now wears a red coat because red is the colour of Coca‑Cola, some depictions of Santa show a red coat before Sundblom painted it into immortality.

Initially, Sundblom received around $1,000 per painting- a lot of money at the time, as you could buy a car for $700! Spending the years between 1931 and 1965 fine-tuning Santa’s story and visuals, Sundblom’s original paintings have been on exhibit around the world, and are now worth considerably more- that’d be a nice little Christmas present!

The Christmas Truck

First appearing in the iconic ‘holidays are coming’ TV ads in 1995, the Coca-Cola trucks were created by the W.B. Doner Agency in the USA. Since then, millions of people in over 100 countries have come to associate the big red truck with Christmas.

Originally known as 'Christmas Caravans', the illuminated lorries were made more enchanting with special effects by the world-famous Industrial Light and Magic, the company behind the special effects in the Star Wars films.

While some trucks tour America and Europe, the most popular destination has actually become the UK tour, which was launched by Myleene Klass in 2011. Each year since, the Coca-Cola truck visits between 20 and 40 locations up and down the UK.

The UK Coca-Cola Christmas Truck is 4.1 metres high and weighs 13 tonnes, lit by 372 bulbs and 8,772 fairy lights to give it that Christmas sparkle. It has made 397 stops since 2011, and travelled more than 730,000 miles – the equivalent to 29 times around the world!

In 2015, there were two trucks, one starting in the South and one which began its journey in the North. This was due to the fact that it had been so popular the previous year, and one truck could not visit all the cities alone!

The Coca-Cola tour stops are a real festive spectacle, accompanied by Christmas music, either from loudspeakers or a live choir, adding to the spirit of the season. The red truck isn’t just a pretty sight- many families and individuals queue up all day just to get a can of Coca-Cola from the truck itself!

Raise a Can to Christmas

With the 2020 tour having to be cancelled due to the pandemic, many families are looking forward to the tour returning in 2021 as a welcome chance to reconnect and celebrate some of the more ‘normal’ Christmas festivities.

The tour usually kicks off around the middle of November, finishing two or three days before Christmas Day. It will call in at cities and towns across the length and breadth of the UK. To find out where your nearest stop is, check local press or visit the UK Coca-Cola website. Events run 12pm-7pm.

Local businesses, attractions and radio stations often pair up with the trucks to make it a real spectacular, and Coca-Cola uses the event to raise funds and publicity for charities, including Street Games, International Women’s Day, ParkLives, the Special Olympics, and Crisis, the homeless charity.

And keep your eyes out for celebrities- ever since Dr Who’s Matt Smith drove the truck to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis, famous drivers have popped up on tour.

With free samples, giveaways, promotions and personalised bottles, goodies are an important part of the festivities. Addressing concerns that the tour promotes sugary drinks, parents can be reassured that these days Coca-Cola are keen to promote their sugar-free and ‘Zero’ ranges.

They also aim to spread a greener message, tying the tour into their global World Without Waste pledge- to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one sold by the year 2030. People are encouraged to bring cans and bottles to the tour, with Coca-Cola pledging to donate 10p in exchange for every can placed in our recycling bins throughout the truck tour.

So you can kick off the festive season, have fun with family and friends, and do good at the same time- making it onto Father Christmas’s ‘nice, not naughty’ list!

  • Coca Cola Truck is in London on the 15th of December - Learn more

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