When I first saw the clip of Megyn Kelly telling all of us that Santa is white, I thought, “Hmmm, …” and I won’t repeat what followed. I haven’t really followed the drama since her statements … it was an ill-fated piece of political satire … but this came to my attention again today while reading a Facebook post. Like any good mom, I’ve given it some thought, especially since I am White and Noodle is mixed race.
In my upbringing, Santa Claus was represented by a “jolly old elf” in a red and white suite with a long white beard (usually fake – I know because I always tugged on it!) and a belly stuffed with milk and cookies. And, yes, he was White. But – spoiler alert – this Santa Claus is a fictional character (don’t tell Noodle!) brought to us by Clement Moore, Thomas Nast and Coca-Cola.
This Santa Claus is part of a culture that, at the time of his creation, included Americans, the majority of whom were of Northern European descent. Thomas Nast was German-born. Haddon Sundblom, credited by many for the image Coca-Cola brought to us, was of Swedish descent. Clement Moore, while having old roots in early America, likely was descendant from the same Moore’s I am … we came from Northern Europe, too. To them, Santa was White because that was their culture and they imparted that image onto their creations.
Let’s look a little more toward a real person, shall we? Santa Claus equates to St. Nicholas, a Turkish-born monk, later Saint, who was thought of as the “protector of children”. To some, Turkish-born means White, to others … Asian, still to others … Middle-Eastern. But those aren’t even the same, are they? White is a color. Asian and Middle-Eastern are cultures, each its own ethnicity.
He kind of looks like Santa Claus, no?
The Christmas gift giver has many names, depending on your own cultural background. Father Christmas. Sinter Klass. Santa Claus. Christkind. Kris Kringle. Pere Noel. Sheng Dan Laoren. Joulupukki. Jultomten. Babouschka. La Befana. This is just a smattering, and those last two aren’t even men!
St. Nicholas is a figure steeped in history and religion. Some consider him “White”. It’s a topic I don’t really care to debate because I think it’s a matter of semantics. By definition, St. Nick is a member of the Caucasian race regardless of his skin tone.
Santa Claus is a cultural icon. His counterparts look different in every culture. He isn’t even always a “he”. He – or she – can look however you want him to look … even if she flies on a broomstick.
I still believe in Santa Claus. At some point in my young life, my beliefs went from sitting on the lap of the red suited masquerader in an over-stuffed red velvet chair to an understanding of what Santa really represents in my life. Yes, I still believe in Santa Claus. He represents all that is good and beautiful about about being a child. He represents love and generosity. His ideal is woven into family traditions all over the World and should be a reminder of how connected we really are to one another, not of our differences.