I have to admit the first time I saw a brown Santa Claus I was taken aback. He didn’t seem right. He didn’t fit into the mold of the Coca-Cola envisioned Santa Claus we’ve all grown up with.
This was years ago, and I had honestly not given Santa’s skin color any more thought until a couple of weeks ago when a friend asked a group of us (almost all Latinas) if we cared if the jolly man was brown or white or if he spoke English or Spanish.
I realized then I was still bothered by the image of a brown or Latino Santa Claus. I mean, why do we feel the need to change a legendary figure into something else just to fit our own mold? Why do we even have a mold? Aren´t we the ones always fighting to come out of that mold that defines all Latinos under one color, nationality or even music style?
If we want a man from the North Pole– who’s real origins trace back to a Christian saint from Europe, Bishop Nicholas–to be brown, then we have a lot of explaining to do to our niños, right? Santa Claus is who he is. He is white, with a huge white beard, a perfectly round belly and a red fur outfit. If we change any of that, then we change the game some of us have accepted to play along with during this season.
I don´t need my daughter to have to identify with Santa Claus as a Latino for her to feel connected. Just seems ridiculous and closed-minded to me since I´m teaching her to embrace all colors, all languages, all religions and all traditions.
The issue of language is different, though. As the legend goes, Santa is supposed to know all the languages in the world since his job is to go around the globe spreading Christmas joy and gifts. So if my bilingual daughter is to sit on Santa´s lap and at that moment decides to speak to him in Spanish, then he´ll just have to be able to respond to her.
I hadn´t really thought about this little detail when I stood in line with her for almost an hour to finally-after four years!-get her picture with the Claus (yes, the one at the beginning of this post.) This Santa clearly only spoke English, so what would happen if she told him que se había portado muy bien y quería un vestido y la corona de Rapunzel para Navidad?
Fortunately, not a single word came out of my stunned, yet brave, four-year-old as she sat on Santa´s lap and coyly posed for their first picture together.
Now I´m sure that next year I will be doing my Santa Claus research to try and locate a Spanish-speaking one around town so my girl can have yet another immersive experience to reinforce her need and want to speak her heritage language.
But, please, no need to make him brown! If I want a Christmas character to identify with, I have el Niño Jesús and los Tres Reyes Magos to bring us plenty of cultural and authentic traditional cheer.
Share: Does it matter to you, or your kids, Santa´s color and/or language?