My Family Only Visits Black Santa — Here's Why

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Black Santa Claus giving a Christmas gift to a young boy
Ryan McVay/Getty Images

When our kids were born 13 years ago, Black Santa was hard to come by. It took weeks of phone calls to find one. He was at a mall several towns away, on Monday nights, for two hours — only. We were very grateful for the opportunity and certainly made sure to take the kids, but it felt sad that Black Santa was the side note, the second thought, the less-preferred embodiment of all things merry and bright.

Finding Black Santa décor was also few and far between. Everywhere we went, pasty-cream Santas with twinkly blue eyes stared back at us. Around this same time, I remember seeing an online story about Fox news (groan) anchors concluding that Santa and Jesus are white. (That’s historically inaccurate, by the way, given where Jesus was born. But I digress.) The message was that the vast majority valued white Santa and were desperate to keep him that way. Any other Santa was laughable — when he was even given a second thought.

While society was busy arguing whether or not Santa could only be white, I was wondering, why can’t Santa be Black?

The answer is simple. White fragility causes white feelings, all based in white supremacy. Whiteness is a pervasive disease that claims, consciously or not, that it is superior. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about school dress code or workplace hair policies, college admissions, marijuana convictions and sentencing, or even Jolly Old Saint Nicholas — because systemic racism is everywhere. There are no exceptions, safe spaces, or exemptions.

If right now you’re busy forming a rebuttal against Black Santa, ask yourself why. Why can’t Santa be Black? What is your real reason for getting up in arms about a melanin-poppin’ Kris Kringle? My guess is you’re banking on tradition, white male norms, and the underlying fear that Black Santa is a slippery slope to dismantling your dream of a “White Christmas.”

Or maybe you insist you’re “colorblind.” Of course, colorblindness is just another form of supremacy.

Some people got their holiday boxers in a wad when the news broke that Disney was hosting some Black Santas throughout their theme parks. Newsflash: Disney is literally a kingdom built on made-up characters. Calm down, Karen (or Kyle). Nobody is saying you can’t take your tots to the Santa of your choosing. Just don’t rain on the Black Santa parade.

What makes me sad, on a personal level as a mom of Black children, is that these Black Santa naysayers simply don’t get it. They don’t see the wonder and joy on a Black child’s face when they get to visit a brown-skinned Father Christmas or Papa Noel sitting on the red, velvet throne. I’ve had the honor of witnessing my kids’ joy over a dozen Christmases. It’s a beautiful moment. Why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to experience a Santa who looks like them?

Thankfully, today there are more Black Santas available and accessible than ever before. Last year during our first COVID-Christmas, we met with one virtually, right in front of our own Christmas tree. You don’t even have to leave your house to find a Santa that fits your kids’ fancy. There’s even an app, appropriately named Find Black Santa, which helps families locate Saint Nick — or, in many cases, Noir.

Listen, Santa is a downright magical — but fictional — jolly old dude. (Don’t tweet me. I know that there was once a real Santa.) Why not enjoy Black Santa? Why can’t Santa be Asian, or a woman, or Hawaiian, for that matter? What if Santa uses a wheelchair? I’m totally here for a feminist Ms. Claus, while we’re at it. The magic of Santa is that he — or she, or they — makes Christmas extra special for kids. Anyone who has a problem with this is a total Scrooge or Grinch. Just move aside and let all kids see themselves reflected in Santa.

The push for Black Santa isn’t just a benefit for Black children, either. All kids benefit from seeing diversity — and not just seeing it, but taking part in it, immersing in an experience. After all, raising kids is about preparing them for the next step in life. The real world is racially, religiously, gendered, ability, age diverse.

I’m not advocating for ditching white Santa. If he is your family’s jam, that’s OK. (And for the love of Christmas cookies, please don’t tell me that I’m “racist against white people.” That’s not a thing, by the way.)

As for me and my house, we will be scheduling another virtual Black Santa session this year, wearing our Black Santa PJs in front of our Christmas tree decorated with — you guessed it — Black Santas, nativities, and angels. Christmas is our absolute favorite holiday, and there is absolutely no shame in our Black Santa game.

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