How Asian and Black Santas are changing how families view Christmas

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Why Santas of color are so important to kids (Photo: Getty)

Since its original publication on December 8, 2021, this article has been updated.

At the Mall of America, shoppers spotted something they had never seen before at America’s largest shopping mall: an Asian Santa.

The “Santa Experience”, an annual event at Bloomington’s mall, Minn., features the best of Minnesota’s Santas. SantasSanta Pat, who is Black, was also in the lineup. Santa Allan Siu, the mall’s first Asian American Santa, joined the lineup for the 2022 season. The hiring is significant, Charisse L’Pree Corsbie-Massay, an associate professor of communications at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, tells Yahoo Life.

“Many of the conversations we have about ‘diverse Santa’ relate to Black Santa, but this is a common rhetorical problem with issues of ‘diversity’ and ‘race’ — that we interpret that to mean the representation of a specific marginalized group,” Corsbie-Massay explains. “Asian Santa ensures that we are breaking out of a narrow discussion to a greater understanding of racial representation globally. More than 60% of the world’s population is of Asian descent, so it’s important to have Santa who represents all of us. It is important for Asian kids as well as kids who are not Asian.”

The mall’s group is further rounded out with bilingual Santas: one who speaks Spanish and another who speaks Cantonese.

When it comes to Jolly Old Saint Nick — a real-life hero in the eyes of children — many would be surprised to learn that the early depictions of Santa were not white. This all changed when the 1863 issue was published. Harper’s Weekly A Civil War cartoonist described Santa as the white round-faced Santa seen today in print.

Recent years have seen increased efforts to find Santas from diverse backgrounds. Old Navy, a retailer that sells clothing and accessories, made the news last year when it released a line of Christmas pajamas St. Nick is shown with a variety of skin colors, and 2021 marked the first year that holiday celebrations at Walt Disney World and Disneyland included a Black Santa. These developments were long anticipated, many believe.

Ashley Capel is a mother, and the creator of the Instagram account Black Santa Exists, which is dedicated to showcasing Capel’s store-bought Black Santa finds — from dolls to décor — as well as supporting small online businesses who craft homemade designs.

Capel explains, “I’m just an mom of three little Black boys and wanted to make sure we had Black Santas at our house.” Yahoo Life“And that our boys could find a Santa that looks just like them.”

Coby OwensWilmington activist Corey Owens also took matters into himself. Owens plays Santa Claus at his community’s annual Santa is Coming to Town event. Owens traces it back to his grandmother who collected Black Santas.

Owens says, “Unfortunately growing-up, that was one the few places I saw Black Santas.” “When I went on parades [and] I have never seen a Santa who looked like me in stores or on television. Sometimes it felt like Santa wasn’t meant to be me or someone who looks like me.

Owens believes that this event sets a positive example for the children of the area and enjoys seeing their reactions to Santa Claus.

"When I went to parades, stores or watched television, I didn't see a Santa that looked like me," says Coby Owens, who now plays a Black Santa in his community. "So, sometimes it felt as though Santa wasn't meant for me or someone that looks like me." (Photo: Coby Owens)

Coby Owens, a Black Santa, says, “I didn’t find a Santa who looked like me when I went to shops, parades or watched television.” “So, it sometimes felt like Santa wasn’t meant to be me or someone who looks like me. (Photo by Coby Owens

He says, “Representation of the community is very important.” “Our community has gone through so many things, from a pandemic of gun violence to a pandemic: It’s wonderful to forget all that for a moment and to celebrate giving back to the community and joy. It’s 100% worth it when the children react.

The long-awaited step towards inclusion is not limited to Father Christmas. Natasha Huang Smith Jackson, the son of a mom and digital market consultant, loves Elf On the Shelf.

Huang Smith explains, “Growing in a traditional Chinese household, my parents didn’t make a big deal out of Christmas,” so whenever we did Santa photos or met and greets it was a great treat.

However, she confesses that before celebrating the holidays together with her son she had not given much thought to Santa’s usually white appearance.

Natasha Huang Smith, an Asian mom from Florida, says she's been thrilled to find Elf on the Shelf toys in various skin tones to share with her son, Jackson. (Photo: Natasha Huang Smith)

Natasha Huang Smith, a mom of Asian children from Florida, said that she was delighted to find Elf-on-the Shelf toys in a variety skin tones for her son Jackson. (Photo by Natasha Huang Smith

She says, “To be honest, I have never known Santa to look any other than an old white dude wearing a belly and beard.”

Huang Smith’s extended family lives in Florida. Jackson visited both a Santa white and tropical Santa while wearing Hawaiian shirt and lei.

She says, “I would love to take Jackson to see the Chinese Santa.” “I think the world’s changing and I anticipate more diverse Santas in years to come, which makes me happy to hear.”

Although Asian Santas are rarer than they used to be, there are still some events that provide them. California families longing for nostalgic memories during the holidays are temporarily bringing the popular 1980s. Shogun Santa — a Japanese Santa — back to Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, while an Asian Santa One day only, Seattle, Wash. Wing Luke Asian Museum

Houston, Tex. Houston, Texas Pancho Claus A local celebrity, he has been bringing joy to at-risk families for more than 40 years. Richard Reyes (Tex-Mex Santa), a local hero, is a hero to the region’s large Latin population. He has delivered over 10,000 presents for children and families in dire need.

Reyes proves that not all heroes have to wear caps. He does this in a zoot costume while parading along the streets during a holiday extravaganza. These efforts have led to a non-profit organization that runs youth programs and art enrichment classes throughout the year.

Implementing inclusion can be complicated because of the logistical issues involved. According to a Santa Census conducted by The Tampa Bay Times In 2017, less than 5 percent of professional Santas who work in malls or at other celebrations were Hispanic, Asian, or Black.

Tanya AckerThe judge and co-host on the nationally syndicated television series is. Hot BenchShe will never forget her childhood memories of searching for Black Santa as a child.

Acker said that Acker’s parents drove him across the city to find a Black Santa. “I don’t know how they found the ones they did — there were no Black Santa Facebook groups and in fact, there was no Facebook.”

Acker believes that children should see someone who is like them.

“My parents were very determined to fight the negative stereotypes that the larger society promoted about African Americans,” the host said. the Tanya Acker Show podcast. “If young people of colour only see heroes who look like other people, while all the bad guys, the villains, and the dangerous individuals look like them it can really hurt their self-esteem and psyche.”

Acker says, “I’m glad that it is not so rare for the idea of a non-white hero to be so common.”

Kevin Nolan, known in the St. Louis, Mo. area as

Kevin Nolan, also known as “Cocoa Claus” in St. Louis. As “Cocoa Claus”, Kevin Nolan, a St. Louis, Mo. resident, believes representation is important to everyone. Even Santa. (Photo by Kevin Nolan

Kevin Nolan is also known as Cocoa SantaIt is a well-known fixture in St. Louis. area.

Nolan says, “As a kid, I don’t recall seeing a Santa of colour.” “My mother kept Christmas alive in my home. As a father, I wanted to keep this tradition alive.” I love to see the smiles on the faces both of adults and children.

Nolan also says that he is currently working on a YouTube series called “Santa stories”, which will bring Black Santa representation to other areas.

Some may view Christmas as another commercialized holiday filled with frivolity or fantasy. Nolan sees it as much more.

He said, “Representation matters.” “Even Santa!”

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