Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Your Own Personal Santa


"Look out the window, guys!! It's Santa!!" I yelled.

An African-American man dressed as Santa was, for some reason, standing outside of our local assisted living home and waving at passing traffic.

"That's not the real Santa," The Mayor told Rooster knowingly.

"What do you mean?" I asked him.

"The real Santa has light skin. That Santa had dark skin."

My jaw fell down to my lap.

"How do you know he wasn't the real Santa?" I asked.

The Mayor sighed impatiently.

"Mom. Remember last year we went to see Santa? He rode in on a fire truck, remember that? Santa had light skin."

"Well how do you know that THIS isn't the real Santa and THAT wasn't some light skinned guy dressed up like Santa?" I countered.

"Mom! The real Santa rides to restaurants on a fire truck!"

Then I got into an argument with a three year old about Santa's race.

"THE REAL SANTA COULD BE BLACK!!!!"

[Oh, the effectiveness of hysterical mothers everywhere!!]

I was not winning.

[All references to the Turkish origin of Saint Nicholas and the possibility of a family compromise around the idea of a Santa with olive skin where met with complete disdain.]

The Mayor's insistence that THE REAL Santa was white totally threw me.

It is important to me that my children grow up not just to respect difference, but to really appreciate it and, at the same time, to understand all that binds us together.

Later that same day, The Mayor and I read a holiday book in which Santa was a featured character.

"See, Mom!" The Mayor said pointing, "See! There's the real Santa and he has light skin."

I've been thinking and thinking about what I can say to The Mayor.

I want to say something that conveys my values around human difference and, at the same time, honors his strongly held convictions about Santa.

This is what I have come up with so far...

"Mayor, the amazing thing about Santa is that he has the ability to look exactly the way each and every little boy and girl needs him to look. Santa knows how to be just what each of us needs."

How's that?





82 comments:

Katrina said...

One word: Perfect.

WILLIAM said...

That works....

But how come when I see Santa He does not have long legs and big breasts?

Victoria said...

Oh, I've struggled with this as well. Let me know how that works out for you. My Boy (7) is on the verge of not believing (waaa!) and the "What color is Santa" debate is one of the reasons why. Ack.

Krickett said...

My mother tells me the story of our trip downtown when I was little to see Santa. After seeing Santa and as we left the building another Santa was outside. She couldn't think fast enough when asked "why are there two Santa's" and she believes thats when I started to doubt his very existance. I now have a six year old and from the beginning we tell her that the Santa's she sees around town are Santa helpers and occasionally the real Santa will come to town also. You never know what he really looks like and you'll never know if the Santa lap you are sitting on is the real deal or not. She sees Santas of different colors and always wonders if they are THE Santa or not. Of course, after pouring out her wishes on a Santa we've waited in line to see she always states "Thats the real one, I know".

Not very helpful - just felt like sharing.

holly said...

that is a great statement. i'm stealing it, if you don't mind, should it come up here.

thankfully, mine's biggest worries are entry into the living room now that there is no fireplace. i said i'd given santa a key.

slouching mom said...

It's lovely.

Shannon said...

William put a kink in your theory.

We live in a white bread community, so the subject never came up.

But, maybe tell them that the Santa's they see are helpers and can be any color. They're their to remind people that Santa is on his way soon.

The real Santa is the color of water.

If they ask you how you know that, change the subject and offer them a cookie.

Shannon said...

their = there.

Circus Kelli said...

Damn yer good.

Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

I think its a wonderful message. Good for you!

Misa Gracie said...

Simply brilliant. That's exactly what I would have suggested.

Lisa Milton said...

Good job, Mrs. Joy. My kids, now that they are older and clinging to believing in Santa, have all kinds of explanations: the Santas at the malls are 'place holders', special agents of sorts.

I worry I won't be having these conversations for much longer.

Heather, Queen of Shake-Shake said...

It is completely perfect!

Go mom!

I am personally looking for a ninja Santa who can kicker all the Santa haters' butts. Why they wanna hate on a Santa, I don't understand! haha!

Hydes Like Us said...

Perfection.

Hydes

JamesMommy said...

I really like what Krickett said. My 2-year old has already noticed the different Santas and asked about them. I told him I don't know which is the real one and that the rest are helpers. We have also offered him different visuals of different Santas (look for Christmas books with a black Santa or an ornament). Same with angels and the baby Jesus if you want to add that into the holiday mix. I feel ya on the teaching them about valuing differences, etc. As a matter of fact, we have/are considering moving to a more racially diverse community.

Amy said...

That is perfect. Santa is also just like God I notice...

And William is pretty funny.

g-man said...

Wish I could be more help, but all my pictures have a light skinned Santa on his sled being pulled by a fire truck. But there is always photoshop!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of some of the arguments we had ;-). Your values make me proud. It also helps that I'm vindicated since you now know for sure which is your right hand and which is your left. Love, Mom aka Grandma Seattle.

we_be_toys said...

ooh! I like that! After all, wouldn't it seem strange to a kid in a country of predominantly blak or dark-skinned people if Santa was all pink and stuff?
Although, in the Mayor's defense, if Santa has lived at the North Pole a long time, he may have evolved with lighter skin, to protect himself.
Have you ever read David Sedaris' short story/essay, "Six to Eight Black Men"? It's about how in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is always accompanied by a somewhat vague number of black men. When David asked around, he always got the same answer-"six to eight".
I love how you think on your feet with the kids!

liv said...

A++, Mom. You done good.

Kimmylyn said...

You should get royalties for this one because I too shall borrow it if the need arises.

:)

furiousBall said...

well played. check and mate.

oh damn, i just made an analogy using chess and that involves white pieces facing black pieces in a battle to the metaphorical death. crap, just call me hitler

kristen said...

it's perfect.

besides, doesn't the mayor know that santa is a woman? snort.

Motherhood Uncensored said...

Pssssst. He's actually Asian.

That's why you never see him around anywhere.

He's freaking busy.

Kyla said...

If Santa can get in through our NON-EXISTENT chimney, I don't doubt he can look just like we need him to.

Our party line is that the Santas we see are just helpers and Santa needs all different sorts of helpers. Nobody gets to see the real Santa.

Lisa said...

The Santa in the Dora Christmas book is dark skinned, if that helps!

Scarlett Wanna Be said...

I had a comment...then I read William's and lost all train of thought.

Yamagoo said...

First...I love you...I read EVERYTHING you write. I NEVER skip you in my GReader and there are few bloggers who enjoy that kind of attention in my world. So it is with much love that I say...

WTF?

Santa is what he is Virginia. The image that your son is fighting to retain is the creation of the Coca-Cola Co. and is THE SANTA that you and K introduced him to. Why is it unacceptable, to you, for him to be exclusively white?

I don't understand why a mythical being, who brings joy to children of all races has to morph into their particular race to be acceptable?
It seems to me that if Santa is white, and he is universally beloved, that children are telling us that his appearance doesn't matter. Isn't THAT a better lesson?
Santa is who he was created to be. Being white isn't something I think Santa would give a second thought to and certainly nothing he would apologize for.

megachick said...

perfect! since santa is supposed to be the embodiment of the spirit of love and giving, it only makes sense that he should be able to take the shape that best reflects the gifts he is giving and the recipients of those gifts.

All Things BD said...

I love your blog and read it always.

But I have to agree with yamagoo on this one. (Except for the Coca-Cola invention) I love that you are teaching them to appreciate and respect differences, but sometimes we can't multiculturalize (sp?) everything. It's okay that Santa is white-he doesn't discriminate. He brings joy and the spirit of giving to ALL.

I also tell my girls that the Santas at the store are helpers, and they deliver their Christmas wishes to the real Santa. We're hanging on by a thread to belief this year, and I think it will be our last for my 5 year old.

carrie said...

It's perfect and I couldn't agree more.

Santa can be anything to anybody.

CamiKaos said...

We've worked hard to make sure that K appreciates the spirit of Santa and what a magical soul he is to do such nice things for so many others, and that the best way to remember that is to in turn be good souls for other people and make sure that people have what they need and want...

I think that your Santa explanation here is so wonderful I want to incorporate it into what I tell my child too. It was truly perfect.

Jennifer said...

That, is perfect.

We tell the kids that Santa is so busy this time of year that most of the "Santas" we see around aren't the real Santa, but are elves, doing Santas work. Not really a lie, either. :)

For reasons too long and complicated to get into here, I think the message you're trying to instill is really important, Jess. If there were a real Santa and he were really a white guy, totally different story. But, as is, he's part of all of us. And "all of us" are lots of different colors. Go, you.

motherbumper said...

Works for me!

Mrs. Chicky said...

Works for me. Can I borrow that when it's Chicky's time to question Santa?

BD @ BusyDadBlog.com said...

That's a damn good answer. I couldn't think of a better way to put it. Of course, knowing my boy, he's answer: "so... Santa's a chameleon?" Yes, son, Santa's a chameleon.

Jo Beaufoix said...

I think that either way is fine.
I've always told my two that the santas we see in town are his helpers, and that Santa is lots of things to lots of people/cultures, but I think the Mayor sees Santa as a person he recognizes, not a race. The Santa he knows has white skin, so he expects that. Just like if he saw Elmo and Elmo was a different colour from the one he is familiar with.
I suppose what I'm saying is, don't worry. The Mayor and the Rooster will get their social values from you. If Santa is white then he's white. Difference is good, but similarity is ok too.
God, I'm not sure if that makes any kind of sense, but I hope so.

OHmommy said...

Say no more. Perfect.

Mel said...

That's an excellent idea. Perfect.

~JJ! said...

Why, woman? Why must you always make me cry?

Melisa said...

PERFECT explanation. Kids don't make it easy for us, do they? LOL

I had a bit of a struggle myself years ago, when my kids (we're Jewish) asked me if Santa really exists. I had to walk the line on that because I didn't want my kids to be known as "those Jewish kids who ruined it for everybody".

I told them that Santa does indeed exist for those who celebrate Christmas, because he holds the spirit of the season (or something like that...cut me a break; it was about 8 or 9 years ago! LOL) All that matters to me is that they went for it and their non-Jewish friends' holiday remained intact. :)

BTW, great blog. :)

Melisa
Suburban Scrawl
and
Remembering Ruby

Lisa said...

Works for me! Good idea.

Dave Clapper said...

That's almost exactly what I was coming up with as I was reading it, which means it's probably no good.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

I like your answer. We do the, "those are santa's helpers" thing also, but, hey, whatever works is fine. And I would have played right into that argument, also, I can't pass up a "teachable" moment especially when it comes to race or religion!

S said...

Better than anything I could've come up with! Kudos to you!

Wendy said...

Pretty good.

We had a similar situation, when we went to a little girl's b-day party and they had a Santa who happened to be black. My daughter stood up immediately and said that is not the real Santa. I yanked her down and told her that whatever she believe to keep it to herself and not ruin it for everyone else.

Amber sat quietly and listened to Santa and never mentioned it again.

Wendy said...

A local department here has "diversity Santa" times at the tree, so kids and Santa have matching skin!

Is it too early to tell them they're all FAKE?!! :D

The Hotfessional said...

I'll go katrina one better. Two words.

Absolutely Perfect.

Paige said...

That works. I'm sure I'll use similar words with my little one someday.

Jenifer said...

Works for me!

Avery Gray said...

Oh, you are good! I don't think my son cares what color Santa is, just as long as he gets a "really big Transformer" this Christmas. Your kids are very astute!

flutter said...

Ok how about I can't get Depeche Mode out of my head now? Oy.

Mrs. Swizzle said...

excellent. I'll have to file that away somewhere.

Oh, and my word verification is "damds", so there you go.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Perfect. Santa's whatever color you want him to be. Just like Jesus or the tooth fairy.

FENICLE said...

That does work. What a hard one!! We haven't gotten that question yet....

We have fielded the "how is Santa at Sam's club and at the mall at the same time?" I've tried to whole "spirit of Santa lives within us all..."

QT said...

It's The Matrix, only for Santa.

I like your explanation.

mamatulip said...

Nicely done, Mom.

A Beaverhausen said...

Awesome. If Santa can squeeze that body down a tiny brick/metal tube, avoid being set afire, and leave gifts all over the world in a single night? He can be whatever color he wants to be. Frankly, at the altitude in which he travels (and due to the intense cold), I'm surprised the guy's not blue.

http://wordgirl5.typepad.com/apathy_lounge

WILLIAM said...

Pssst.

Santa and Satan have the same letters in their name. and now they appear to people how people need to see them..coincidence?

Biddy said...

that's perfect!

or you could send him to my parents' house because my (white) mother insists on having black santas...and boy does she have black santas....

and i always had black baby dolls...and a black nativity...

Pgoodness said...

perfect, as usual. :-)

Natalie said...

I really like it, but I also like the idea that the Santas we see are really helpers. You could even pull the Mayor aside like you are letting him in on a big secret that nobody else knows.

From Here to There

beta mom said...

Ah yes, I can see we're just a hop skip and a jump away from what the little baby Jesus would have really looked like, being born Bethlehem. I assure you, he would not have looked like some pretty blond-haired rocker boy.

Fortunately, we're Unitarians. :-)

TOM said...

That definitely works!!

painted maypole said...

wow. i was thinking, before you got to thast part of your story, that you could say that Santa changes colors for different boys and girls so that he can look like all the different people that live in our world. you handled it brilliantly.

of course, i just tell my child that santa is imaginary from the beginning, and we've had no such problems. ;)

Loralee Choate said...

This post reminds me of all the times I was told that I worshiped a "Different Jesus than MY Jesus" growing up.

Sigh.

*~*Cece*~* said...

Oh that's good.

Stimey said...

That sounds like a wonderful thing to tell them. All I would have some up with is, "Um...uh...um."

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

Brilliant!

Santa is magic...that's what I tell my kids any way. I've already been asked by my 5-year-old how he can come down the chimney and not get stuck and how he knows what every little girl and boy wants. :)

Bastet said...

Well done, I might have to use that someday!

Holly said...

I think that is a perfect answer.

Jill said...

I love having conversations like that with my daughters!!!

I agree with the some of the other "COMMENTERS"-this reminds me of discussions my family has about God. My girls are convinced that he is a white bearded man with gray hair (a thin version of Santa) sitting on a cloud in a toga.

We have lots of debates over who or what God is. Pretty deep.

I LOVE the way you handled this!

P.S. My husband works in Newark. I was born in Jersey City.

mothergoosemouse said...

I've never even seen a black or Hispanic or Asian (or otherwise) Santa. I wonder why, especially given the diversity of the places where I've lived.

That said, I like your answer.

JCK said...

It is depressing, yet impressive how mightily you wing it on a regular basis. Brilliant!

Kellan said...

Excellent - way to go! See ya. Kellan

crankybee said...

I don't know about this one. When I read your explaination, it sounds like you are ok-ing your son's 'need' for Santa to be white. I mean, if Santa can look white to kids who 'need' him to be white, and black to kids who 'need' him to be black, why did your son see him in the first place? Why didn't he appear white to your son?

Your son is right - 99.9999999999999% of Santa's represented in the media ARE white. So he's not being racist, just a little confused by what he's seeing. Maybe you should try and get him some images of Santas from other countries that look different in costume and looks as well and show him these...

Or you could do what my Mum did - "none of those are the REAL Santa, they are just helpers dressing up to fool little kids, oh, much younger than you, cranky, you are a BIG girl now...No-one ever sees the real santa, cause he comes when you're asleep!"

frog ponds rock... said...

That is as good as the floating kisses..
Maybe you could tell your young man that in Australia, Santa gives his reindeers a rest (because it is very hot) and uses Kangaroos to pull his sleigh...
I think he would like to ponder on that...

There is an Australian Christmas carol called 6 white boomers (boomers=kangaroos) cheers Kim

Annie said...

I'm so glad I read this blog! Now I have a catalog of perfect answers for when Miss E and Jay start asking these questions :)

KC said...

Perfect - I'll have to remember that when the time comes.

Jackie said...

Love it! You are good!

Smiling Mom said...

What a tough one! I think that's a great start. And when if/when he asks, you can follow it up with, something about "the spirit of Santa" being real and unique to all of us.

Best of luck!!
Smiling Mom

The Expatriate Chef said...

The longer story is that Santa started off as a Turkish custom and thus REALLY does have darker skin.But I think your version will be easier to sell.