What color is Santa Claus?

Liberal Opinion

Rashad Richey

National TV Political Analyst, Talk Radio Host, Univ. Prof.
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‘Tis the season to learn the truth about Santa Claus and, at the same time, focus on the meaning behind all of the holiday hoopla. First, let’s talk about Santa Claus and the widely-held belief that he’s white.

Remember, Megyn Kelly even confirmed it on her Fox News show back in 2013 when she said, “Santa just is white. And this person is arguing that we should also have a Black Santa, but Santa is what he is.” Kelly and her fellow panelists were discussing an article in Slate where the writer argued that since America was becoming less white, Santa should no longer appear as a white male.

Well, Megyn Kelly was wrong. Santa is not white. He’s also not Black. Actually, Santa Claus can be traced back to 280 A.D., near modern day Turkey and a monk named Saint Nicholas. While his race has been up for debate, scholars generally agree he was neither white nor Black.

The image we see as Santa Claus in the red suit, red cheeks, beard, and jolly face is actually a production of Coca-Cola. The Atlanta-based company commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom in 1931 to paint Santa Claus for Christmas advertisements only. Sundblom went on to create a series of impressions of the man many think of as St. Nicholas, and it all established the popular look of Santa Claus.

Now we hold him up as an icon, but in reality, he’s a figment of someone’s imagination.

Regardless of how white Santa came into the world, it’s important that all cultures have the right–some would argue they have an obligation–to make sure that their children see themselves in the characters they deem noble.

Now on to the spirit of the holidays. The season is literally about giving, being kind, being understanding, being loving, being cheerful, being open. That’s what the season is about.

You know, every Christmas there are pundits and people who say, well, Santa Claus is white or Santa Claus is Black. If you remember Megan Kelly, when she had her show on Fox News, she told all of her viewers that yes, children, Santa Claus is actually white.

Megyn Kelly: “Santa just is white. And this person is arguing that we should also have a Black Santa, but Santa is what he is.” Eh, incorrect. Guess what? Santa Claus was not white. Santa Claus was not black. The legend of Santa Claus can be connected, traced back hundreds of years ago to a monk name Saint Nicholas. 

It is believed that Saint Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. near modern day Turkey. Guess what? Not black, not white. We’re talking about the actual historical figure. 

Now the imagery that you see of Santa Claus, that imagery of the red suit, the red cheeks, the beard, the jolly guy, well that’s Coca Cola. Coca Cola gave you that. That was based on an advertising campaign in 1931.

Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom in 1931 to paint Santa Claus for Christmas advertisements only.  

These paintings established the image that you see today as Santa Claus or Saint Nick, warm, happy character, human features, rosey cheeks, white beard, twinkling eyes, you know the rest. 

Here’s the reality. 

There’s a big debate all the time about these particular characters. We call them icons. We call them American traditions, but they’re simply characters created out of a creative mind.

I don’t have any issue with white Santa Claus, but people should not have an issue with Black Santa Claus or brown Santa Claus or whatever rendering of St. Nicholas you choose. If we’re talking about the season, well, the season is not about Santa Claus. 

The season is literally about give, be kind, be understanding, be loving, be cheerful, be open. That’s what the season is about. 

So no Santa Claus is not historically white, but in the artistic rendering in 1931 it became known as a white male, but that doesn’t mean other cultures do not have the right, some would even argue the obligation to make sure that their children see themselves in the characters that they deem to be noble.

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