Today in Miami as my cousin and I drove by we saw two large Christmas lawn ornaments side by side. One was a seven foot tall inflated white polar bear, and the other was an equally tall inflated black Santa Claus. And not just any black Santa Claus. This was clearly a Santa who was proud of his ethnic heritage and delighted to share it with the world.
Of course I immediately flashed back on the recent assertion by Fox News (in response to a blog post asking why Santa couldn’t be a black penguin), that Santa Claus needs to be a white guy. Their reasoning was, as I understand it, that to say otherwise would be confusing to children.
As I looked at the giant dark skinned Santa on that lawn, smiling happily upon the world, I thought about the weirdness of Fox News’ insistence on factual accuracy in the portrayal of an entirely mythical figure.
I even looked up “Saint Nicholas” on Wikipedia, which confirmed that the actual historical figure lived in the 4th century in Greece. So I don’t think he would have come close to resemble the pink faced depiction by Thomas Nast in the mid-19th century (the one we’re now most familiar with in this country). In fact he would have been quite swarthy.
Yes, I know that the iconography of Santa also borrows from the Norse image of Odin, clad in his blue cloak, riding a giant steed to shower gifts during the very un-Christian celebration of Yule.
And there were many other influences as well, all of which support the point tacitly raised by that Miami homeowner: Why should old Father Christmas (or Papai Noel, Babbo Natale, Daidí na Nollag or Weihnachtsmann, as he is known to various people out there) have only one ethnic appearance? And who is Fox News to dictate which of the many versions of that gentleman is the “correct” one?
I understand that Fox News has an obligation to its Red State constituency, and ethnic diversity among powerfully totemic mythical figures might seem to them a dangerously liberal idea.
But lest Fox News feel bad, I can assure them, before they lose their tenuous grip on things, that the real life version of that other figure on that lawn, the polar bear, is most definitely white (-ish).