This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

December 25, 2009

Santa Claus is a Black Man—and a Black Woman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 6:09 pm

We do not do Santa Claus in our home. We never have. Our children—from day one—knew that any gifts they received under the decorated tree were from me, their father, and family and friends from far and wide.

Before we had children, my husband and I talked about this. I had nothing but fond memories about believing in Santa Claus and in our family we went the full nine yards: taking pictures in the mall sitting on his lap, compiling our massive wish lists, leaving cookies and milk out for him to consume before leaving our gifts and flying off to the next house. My Point of No Longer Believing was pretty unmemorable. No major trauma of, say, an impossible wish followed by a glaring disappointment that showed me the folly of my faith. Rather, I just sort of gradually didn’t believe, until one day I felt sure enough to broach the subject with my parents. They confirmed what I knew, and I felt fine being “in” on the story for the sake of my younger sister and cousins.

My husband’s experience with Santa was quite different from mine. He was the son of working class parents who wanted to make sure he knew that his parents—not some bearded White man—were the ones who sacrificed all year long so that he could have a chemistry set or a 10-speed bicycle.

When we compared our Santa histories, my husband and I decided we would just never start the Santa myth with our then-future children. Not that we would rail against it or anything. And since our kids have been old enough to understand, we never delivered an anti-Santa speech to our kids. For them, the jolly heavy-set man is a character—much like SpongeBob Square Pants or Harry Potter. He seems to be as “real” to my daughters as these two much-beloved-by-them figures.

We have told our daughters that some children “believe” in Santa in a different way, and that they are not to spoil this fun for those kids by saying that he is not really real. I sometimes can’t hep thinking that this must set up some sort of logic chain for my kids: belief in Santa is fun for other children; We do not believe in Santa; We must be missing out on some sort of fun.

Yet they have never shown any hints that they have come to this conclusion.

For a while, my confidence in Santa-less parenting faltered. When my daughters started loosing their baby teeth, I did the whole Tooth Fairy thing with them: having them put their tooth under their pillows and placing four new quarters under their pillows over night as they slept right before removing the tooth. At one point one daughter asked, “Mommy, are you the tooth fairy?” Why do you want to know? I asked. “Because if you are, can you leave us $2.00 instead of $1.00?”

It will be interesting to see what my daughters do with regard to Santa if they someday raise children. I won’t be surprised if one of them does pretty much what she has experienced as a child, while the other goes all-out, full-tilt Santa immersion. But so far, from what I can discern, Christmas is no less magical, no less special, because of our lack of participation in the yearly Santa mythology. Of course, I could be wrong. In that case, at least my children will have something interesting to discuss with a therapist later in life.

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7 Comments »

  1. My oldest son is now 35 years old. I made up my mind not to teach him about Santa when he was little. Back then it was definitely a minority opinion. My parents understood my reasoning but they had a difficult time with removing S. Claus from their holiday hype.

    His pre school teacher were livid when he returned to school and proudly stated that his parents had given him gifts. They insisted that Santa had done so. Which caused me to pay them a visit and state my position about why I did not push Santa onto my child.

    Fast forward to age four. By this time my child had been bombarded with tales of Santa Claus. He asked to go see Santa at a department store. This request brought much joy to both sides of our family since they thought I was crazy. I took him to see Santa as he requested. When it was his turn to sit on his lap and have the traditional photo taken, Santa said, Ho, Ho, Ho, and my son slapped his face right as the photo was snapped and jumped off of his lap. I fell out laughing. They wanted to take another picture but I insisted upon purchasing that one. I had copies sent to his grandparents. I never told them what happened. A picture is worth a thousand words. After that-no one objected when I did not give a white male credit for our hard work and effort.

    I think that it is insane to deal with the issues that we have to during the year-then turn around and teach our children that a mythical white male has the power to provide desired gifts for them. Given the cost of toys and other items these days behavior is not the key factor in what ends up in our households.

    I applaude all parents who do not push Santa in their households! We need to stop the madness and be honest with our little folks. My sons do not push Santa Claus onto their children either.

    Comment by msladydeborah — December 27, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    • All so sad. So it is really all about you and your bias.

      You want to make sure your child gives you credit for getting them gifts and not create that magical place adults are supposed to create to stimulate a child’s creativity and protect them from adult thoughts. All during their formative years.

      Santa although white is also a good time for you to teach children the values of being rewarded in life for being good and the selfless value of giving to others. Giving to others, not taking from others, when they don’t demand what is yours is their right.

      As adults it is our job to nurture children imagination and launch them to learning values and applying these fantasies that they learn to real difficult world problems. You sound like a bitter woman who is passing along as early as possible her bitterness to her children instead of doing the hard job of parenting.

      Comment by SadDayBlackCulture — December 30, 2009 @ 10:24 am

      • SDBC, I’m sure Msladydeborah can speak fr herself. But I have a different view of what you said here:

        that magical place adults are supposed to create to stimulate a child’s creativity and protect them from adult thoughts

        Who says that place has to come via Santa Claus? As I alluded to in my post, my daughters are huge Harry Potter fans. They love cartoons. One is also a huge Star Wars fans. Many of the books they read have magical themes. It is possible for kids to develop a perfectly fine imagination without ever having believed in Santa Claus.

        There are also many other ways to teach children about goodness and selflessness. In fact, I think Santa is probably amongst the worse ways to teach these values. Why, for example, does Santa only give the most expensive toys to children of wealthy parents? Because the poorer children were “naughty”? By virtue of what—just being low income?

        Children notice these kinds of disparities and the “adult thought” that some parents have more financial resources than others is preferable, IMO, than the notion that Santa does not like the poor kids as much as the rich ones.

        Comment by pprscribe — December 30, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

  2. Fascinating!

    My perspective is very different. My father looks just like the Coca Cola company’s version of Santa Claus, a tall, fat white man with white hair and a florid face. His personality is like Santa’s too, very warm, very generous, always in a good mood. He never told me that there was a Santa Claus; he comes from a long line of village atheists, and couldn’t bring himself to tell us those kinds of stories. Nor did my mother; she sometimes tells a story about playing with me as a newborn, asking me “Do you want me to lie to you? Do you want me to tell you about Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy?” My sister heard her saying that and got upset with her.

    Anyway, since my dad looked the way Santa was supposed to look, I grew up wanting to believe that there was a Santa Claus and that he really did look that way, but I received no help at all from my parents in trying to convince myself of that. This got even more frustrating when I was about 7 and was going through a phase where I wanted to prove that Santa wasn’t real. Since they’d never said he was, I didn’t have anything to rebel against. So the Christmas Eve when I was 7 I got out of bed a little before midnight and found my sister wrapping presents. Aha, I exclaimed, there’s no Santa Claus! She looked puzzled. Of course there’s no Santa Claus, she said, who ever told you there was a Santa Claus?

    Santa as a black man and a black woman brings back childhood memories for me as well. While I was still trying to convince myself there was a Santa Claus, my parents took me to a department store and had me sit on Santa’s lap. Between the Coca Cola Company and my dad I’d been firmly convinced that Santa was supposed to be a tall, fat white man. The department store Santa was a short, thin black woman. I was prepared for variation on any one of those characteristics, so short, thin, black, or female would have been okay. Maybe any two characteristics, so that a tall, fat black woman would have been okay. But all four, that was just too much all at once.

    Sitting on her lap, I was aware that it was brave of the department store to hire her, and definitely aware that it was brave of her to take the job. But I didn’t want to think grown-up thoughts about fair hiring practices, I wanted to convince myself that tthere was a Santa Claus and that the Coca Cola company was telling me the truth about him. So I looked down at her high heeled shoes (they weren’t boots, I don’t believe) whined “You’re not Santa Claus!,” and that was that.

    Comment by acilius — December 27, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  3. Msladydeborah, what a great story! I tried to recall if I have ever gotten a really hard time from family and friends over the no Santa thing. I don;t think so. No more than our decision not to baptize the girls as infants—and even that opposition was only lukewarm. I think by now my family just accepts that I am strange and different, but that they still love me. That’s family for you! LOL

    acilius, thanks for sharing your story, too. I especially found this funny and interesting:

    I was prepared for variation on any one of those characteristics, so short, thin, black, or female would have been okay. Maybe any two characteristics, so that a tall, fat black woman would have been okay. But all four, that was just too much all at once.

    Comment by pprscribe — December 29, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  4. Dear Scribe:

    Since you referred to me by name, I thought I’d comment.

    My legal name is Santa Claus, and I’m a Christian Monk, as St. Nicholas was many centuries ago. Many folks in Turkey have darker skin than most white Americans do, as I suspect St. Nicholas did. I believe that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, not the crass, commercial, secular spectacle it has become in many places, and that the greatest gift one can give is love, not presents.

    I’m also a full-time volunteer advocate for the 2 million children in the U.S. annually who are abused, neglected, exploited, abandoned, homeless, and institutionalized through no fault of their own. That’s 1 out of 37 children in our great nation.

    I invite you and your readers to visit TheSantaClausFoundation dot org to learn about the plight of millions of vulnerable children in dire straits.

    Thank you for your thoughtful piece on Santa Claus.

    Blessings to all, Santa Claus

    Comment by Santa Claus — January 6, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

  5. [...] posts include “Racism, A Love Story“; “The War on the New Year“; and “Santa Claus Is a Black Man- And a Black Woman.” Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Still impressive: My So-Called LifeFirst [...]

    Pingback by This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life « Panther Red — January 6, 2010 @ 4:11 pm


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