On Wednesday Megyn Kelly brought our attention to the War on Santa Claus, waged by people who care about things like being "inclusive" or whatever. "For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white," Kelly said on Fox News on Wednesday night. But it turns out it's worse than Kelly thought. The P.C. liberal fight against Santa pales in comparison to the horrific war on Santa being waged around the globe.
Kelly was reacting to Aisha Harris's suggestion that Santa should be represented as an animal — perhaps a penguin — to spare non-white kids the "insecurity and shame" she experienced as a child. Kelly made it clear that White Santa, aka the only Santa, is not a figure that should be altered to reflect our changing social and ethnic make up. If you modernize Santa, next thing you know we'll be teaching kids about how elves get paid sick days and healthcare plans that cover birth control.
Meanwhile, countries all over the world are fighting the good fight to make sure Santa keeps making people "uncomfortable," as Kelly so dismissively described the experience of not being racially mainstream enough to see yourself represented by fictional gift-givers. Here are the front lines of Santa war.
The Netherlands, Sinterklaas, and his team of black slaves
The tradition: The Netherlands' version of Saint Nicholas is called Sinterklaas, who lives in Spain. On December 5 he and his team of Black Petes — men blackened by soot, as parents tell their kids — deliver presents. (Historically, he's most likely a black Moor from Spain.) Apparently, as the Netherlands has become more ethnically diverse, people seem to find something objectionable about white men in Afro wigs and blackface, wearing gold hoop earrings similar to those worn by slaves. Puh-lease. What could be offensive about this guy's painted lips and blackened face:
This woman wouldn't be smiling if she thought she was dressed as a caricature of the sort of black slaves her country historically brutalized, would she?
Look, a kid in black face next to an actual kid of African descent. That's not uncomfortable.
The war on Santa: Santa-haters have been pulling Black Pete controversies out of thin air, including the time the United Nations called Black Pete "a return to slavery." According to DutchNews.nl, the Dutch daily De Telegraaf got in trouble for making a Black Pete/Nelson Mandela died joke. "There have been reactions abroad and in the Netherlands to the death of Nelson Mandela, who died, of all times, on Sinterklaas evening (with Zwarte Piet),’" read the so-called offensive article. At this moment we can't think of an interpretation of that "joke" that isn't casually racist, but we're sure that non-racist interpretation is what the De Telegraaf author was thinking. The story was later deleted.
Some activists have suggested that maybe there should be a Green Pete, or a Rainbow Pete. As Arnon Grunberg, a Dutch man, explained in The New York Times this month, however, people get death threats for that sort of thing. As per Grunberg, most Dutch people, especially conservatives, are determined to keep their traditions at all costs. Even if it leads to scenes like this, as Grunberg writes:
I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, and every November, whenever I would come across someone from Suriname — in those days, most black people in Amsterdam were from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America — I feared that I had run into a Black Pete in plain clothes.
To relate this back to America's War on Santa, Black Pete made young Arnon "uncomfortable" because it made him afraid of black people. But just because that tradition made him uncomfortable doesn't mean it needs to change.
Suriname, the former Dutch colony banning Black Pete
The tradition: In Suriname, Sinterklaas and Black Pete were a lingering remnant of colonialism.
The war on Santa: According to DutchNews.nl, Suriname has been trying to get rid of Sinterklaas for years, because "the relationship between the white saint and his black assistant is 'a poor example for children.'" In 2011, a group of protesters calling for an end to the racist practice. According to The Netherlands' Algemeen Dagblad, Suriname is giving Sinterklaas and his black "friends" the boot. This is a war on Santa has already won by Team "Unoffensive." Apparently former colonies don't like constant reminders of their mistreatment by their colonizers.
Tajikistan Santa Claus in a mostly Muslim country
The tradition: Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, and his granddaughter Snegurochka, or The Snow Maiden, once appeared on state TV as part of New Years broadcasts. Since Ded Moroz is basically Santa, and a symbol of Christmas, and Tajikistan is basically Muslim, the state broadcaster decided it did not align with the country's culture. Also, Ded Moroz was a remnant of the country's Soviet ties, according to The Moscow Times.
The war on Santa: What's worse than not including Santa in the broadcasts is the dismissive way in which the broadcaster announced it. "These fairytale characters and festive attributes have no direct relations to our national traditions, not that there is anything bad about them," Saidali Siddikov, deputy head of the state broadcaster, said. "Fairytale" characters? That's no way to address a made up character that has no basis in any religious texts as a giver of gifts made by elves.
But, as it turns out, Tajikistan has their own possibly racist, alienating holiday. This is Haji Firouz, the mascot of the Persian New Year recognized in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran and a few other countries:
Canada, where Santa Claus may or may not be Canadian
The tradition: Basically the same as America, though now that Canada's convinced it owns the North Pole, apparently Santa is Canadian.
The war on Santa: Santa is still white in this scenario, so that's alright, but he's most certainly not from the land of draft dodgers and socialist health care. “All of a sudden the Liberals are suggesting that Santa Claus is no longer Canadian and that they would abandon the North Pole and abandon Santa Claus,” said Paul Calandra, a member of Canada's conservative party, according to The National Post. He thinks it's shameful that the liberals think they the country should let scientists decide who owns the Arctic north.
But obviously Santa is a red-blooded American. Nicole Blizinski, a representative from the Santa Claus House, located at 101 St. Nicholas Drive, North Pole, Alaska, made that clear. “Santa Claus lives here,” she said. At least that's one war on Santa we can claim as a win.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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