For the Feast of Stephen: a heartwarming Christmas bulletin from NOLA, mixed reviews from the Mall of America, plus some genuine outrageousness. Minority holiday time.
Chocolate Kris Kringle (40 oz.). From Dilettante Chocolates, 40 oz. of Christmas pleasure, made with three kinds of chocolate (white, dark, and milk), for $32.50:
Santa chocolates usually come with colorful foil wrappers, which you have to remove to consume the Santa inside. The Santa on the foil is of course a white guy, but the real Santa is chocolate brown.
Chocolate Santa (with the kids). From an NPR piece on the 23rd, “New Orleans’ Beloved Santa Makes The Twitterverse Believe In Christmas Magic: Twitter has a theory about Santa Claus — he might be a lot farther south than the North Pole” by Agerenesh Ashagre:
The tweet that started it all came from an account dedicated to celebrating “everything NOLA.” It featured a photo of Santa, holding a baby as he does, and a caption: “If you’re from New Orleans 9/10 you got pic with this Santa.”
… The New Orleans Santa’s real name is Fred Parker, but he’s better known to his community as Seventh Ward Santa, New Orleans Black Santa or Chocolate Santa.
According to The New Orleans Advocate, Parker [now 74] has been Santa for 46 years.
Even before he was officially Santa, Parker was known for spreading Christmas cheer. NOLA.com reports that he was once a school bus driver who would treat a busload of kids to a meal at McDonald’s on the last day of school before Christmas break.
The Seventh Ward Santa has been around for so long that countless people who once posed with him as kids are now old enough to bring him their own children and even their grandchildren.
One of the many photos of Chocolate Santa posted in response to the tweet
The 7th Ward of New Orleans (which was devastated in Hurricane Katrina in 2005) is heavily black, so, not surprisingly, most of the photos of Fred Parker as Santa are with black kids.
Black Santa at the Mall of America. From my posting “Gay Santas 2016” on the 16th, in a section on Santa actors:
Megyn Kelly explained to the world on her Fox News show back in 2013 that Santa Claus is white, so a black man playing Santa (as one now does at the Mall of America) is simply unacceptable, and a great many people have agreed with her, vehemently. (Kelly also told us, preposterously, that Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jew, was also white.) In any case, a black man has a hard time getting hired to play Santa, except possibly in a context that’s all-black [or nearly so, like the 7th Ward of NOLA].
I suspect that the operant belief here is that a figure of significance and power in our culture must be an adult straight white Anglo Christian man; anything else is an unacceptable deviation. The belief applies to Presidents of the United States and even to fictional characters like Santa Claus.
[A note on religion. Well, you say, of course Santa Claus must be Christian. But there’s absolutely nothing in a performance as a Santa that involves any Christian belief or practice; Santa the comforter, the encourager of good behavior, the receptacle of children’s wishes, the bringer of gifts, the supervisor of elves, is thoroughly secular.]
So we get things like the following, as reported in Black Voice News on the 22nd, in “Despite the Haters, Black Santa Thrives at Mall of America”:
“I don’t understand why Santa would be Black. He is a White character,” social media commentator Chris Guy wrote. “Just seems kind of racist to make him Black for the sake of having a Black Santa. I don’t really care, but in our racially sensitive society, I don’t see how this is considered okay,” said Guy, who concluded with this gem: “O, the hypocrisy.”
… Over a four-day period, a reported 550 families including 1,200 children, came to see Larry Jefferson, the premiere attraction for the Santa Experience at the 25-year-old Mall of America.
Jefferson, the first Black Santa in the Mall’s history, is a retired U.S. military veteran from Texas and he was chosen over 1,000 other candidates – all of whom were White.
“It’s no big deal, I’m still Santa, I just happen to be a Santa of Color,” Jefferson told reporters gathered at the mall. “Santa is still just Santa.”
Jefferson greeted passersby, passed out candy canes and encouraged young ones to, “Clean your rooms, eat your vegetables and do what your mommy and daddy say all year.”
A note on St. Nicholas. The figure of Santa Claus is extremely distantly connected historically to a Christian saint, whose feast day is December 6th. From Wikipedia:
Saint Nicholas … (15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey).
… The historical Saint Nicholas … was born at Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor (now Turkey). In his youth he made a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Palestine area. Shortly after his return he became Bishop of Myra and was later cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian. He was released after the accession of Constantine and was present at the Council of Nicaea.
Nicholas was a Greek born in a Greek settlement in Anatolia, so he would definitely have been a swarthy fellow, not at all a proper white man by modern standards. But that was 17 centuries ago and has no bearing on the modern figure of Santa Claus.
Mother Christmas / Mrs. Santa Claus. So much for race, ethnicity, and religion (and in my earlier posting, sexuality). On to sex/gender. From Wikipedia:
Mrs. Claus (also known as Mother Christmas in the UK, as a counterpart to Father Christmas) is the wife of Santa Claus, the Christmas gift-bringer in American and European Christmas tradition. She is known for making cookies with the elves, caring for the reindeer, and preparing toys with her husband. Her first name is a mystery, though she has been referred to as Mary, Jessica, Layla, or Martha.
The wife of Santa Claus is first mentioned in the short story “A Christmas Legend” (1849), by James Rees, a Philadelphia-based Christian missionary. In the story, an old man and woman, both carrying a bundle on the back, are given shelter in a home on Christmas Eve as weary travelers. The next morning, the children of the house find an abundance of gifts for them, and the couple is revealed to be not “old Santa Claus and his wife”, but the hosts’ long-lost elder daughter and her husband in disguise.
… Since 1889, Mrs. Claus has been generally depicted in media as a fairly heavy-set, kindly, white-haired elderly female baking cookies somewhere in the background of the Santa Claus mythos. She sometimes assists in toy production, and oversees Santa’s elves. It is worth noting that, when not portrayed as white-haired or elderly, she is often shown to have red hair. This could be because red hair is the color that most commonly fades to white with age. She is usually depicted wearing a fur dress of red or green.
Her reappearance in popular media in the 1960s began with the children’s book How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas, by Phyllis McGinley. Today, Mrs. Claus is commonly seen in cartoons, on greeting cards, in knick-knacks such as Christmas tree ornaments, dolls, and salt and pepper shakers, in storybooks, in seasonal school plays and pageants, in parades, in department store “Santa Lands” as a character adjacent to the throned Santa Claus, in television programs, and live action and animated films that deal with Christmas and the world of Santa Claus. Her personality tends to be fairly consistent; she is usually seen as a calm, kind, and patient woman, often in contrast to Santa himself, who can be prone to acting too exuberant.
Mother Christmas transformed 1. In our culture, a female figure tends to be driven in one of two directions: as a maternal figure, as above, or as a hot babe. Mother Christmas / Mrs. Santa Claus hasn’t been immune to babelicious transformation; dozens of sexy Mother Christmas costumes are on offer from various sources. A relatively decorous item:
Mother Christmas transformed 2. Once we’ve got a female figure, some guy’s going to do it in drag. So it’s been with Mrs. Santa Claus. Here’s (celebratorily gay) actor Harvey Fierstein as Mrs. Santa Claus in the 2003 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade:
Father Christmas transformed. More drag. Santa Claus has been done by drag kings, but I haven’t found any good images. On the other hand, there are some very entertaining images of double reverses: a drag queen doing Santa Claus. That is, a guy in heavy (female) drag, costumed as the male figure of Santa Claus. I bring you Stefan Böstrum as Madame Heinz Santa:
Now, that really is outrageous.