EVERETT — A plump old white guy with rosy cheeks isn’t the only Santa in town.
A number of Black Santas also spread cheer.
What’s up with that?
The North Pole has diversified.
Mainstream retailers stepped up to offer more Kris Kringles of color on shelves this year.
“It’s been a good year for finding Black Santas,” said Simone Tarver, 30, an Everett Boeing worker. “Typically I buy everything I see. This year I had to exercise restraint because I saw so many.”
She would have taken home the 5-foot animated Black Santa at Rite Aid had there been space in her apartment.
Home Goods, Michaels and Hobby Lobby have Santa figures in a variety of skin tones. Reddi-wip has a Black Santa on its holiday cans of dairy dessert toppers. Nordstrom video calls are with Santas from a range of ethnic backgrounds.
Black Santas in the flesh were available for socially distanced chats and photo ops at Black Coffee Northwest Cafe in Shoreline and at Rainier Beach Community Center, a Seattle tradition.
As a child, Tarver had to visit south Seattle to sit on the knee of a Santa with her skin color. Later on, shopping trips for decorations were a treasure hunt in downtown Seattle. “We’d go around to a lot of shops and maybe see one brown or Black Santa,” she said.
Hallmark has offered African American Santa ornaments for years, and Tarver grew up with these on her tree.
This year Tarver snagged a Black Mrs. Claus ornament for $3 at Target that could be paired with a Mr. C in Black — or white, to make an interracial couple, matching her relationship with her boyfriend. A tablecloth patterned with Black and white Santas is a new Walmart find.
Her pajama lounge pants came from Old Navy, whose Jingle Jammies and cozy socks collection is available in skin color variations known as Santa Cocoa, Santa Walnut and Santa Beige.
“We are actively developing more inclusive products that represent our customers,” the Old Navy website says.
It’s still a white Christmas in some minds.
A man in Arkansas put an inflatable Black Santa on his front lawn because he wanted his 4-year-old daughter to see herself represented in the Christmas celebration.
He received an anonymous hate letter:
“Please remove your negro Santa. You should not try to deceive children into believing that I am a negro,” said the letter, which was signed, “Santa Claus.”
When word got out, white neighbors put Black Santas on their lawns in solidarity.
After Chris Kennedy received a racist letter objecting to his Black Santa Christmas decoration, his neighbors in Arkansas started putting up their own Black Santa decorations as a show of support. @rehemaellis has the story. pic.twitter.com/7Dj2I8dmMn
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) December 9, 2020
Santa Claus is make-believe, so there’s no right or wrong ethnicity for him, or gender, for that matter.
Megyn Kelly garnered controversy in 2013 when she declared on her Fox News show that Santa can only be white. Three years later, the Mall of America, the mega Minnesota shopping complex, had a Black Santa for the first time in 2016.
Some have called for Santa to be rebranded as gender-neutral. An Indiana mall caused a stir some years ago when people learned the Santa behind the fake beard was a woman.
There also has been talk that Santa needs to get rid of his unhealthy paunch, as he did the pipe. It wasn’t all that long ago that Santa was a smoker. Remember: “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.” A P.C. version of the sugar-plum classic poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” in 2012 kicked his 200-year tobacco habit.
Santa has been whitewashed over the years.
The legend of St. Nicholas goes back to a philanthropic 4th century monk who lived in what is today Turkey and was likely of olive complexion.
The modern image of Santa Claus was created in the late 1800s by an American artist in a series of cartoons for Harper’s Weekly magazine. It became a staple of Christmas cards and advertising images popularized with a 1930s Coca-Cola ad.
This is 2020. Representation matters.
Andrea Brown: email@example.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.