Like shopping for gifts then wrapping them up, some Christmas traditions rarely change. But there’s one classic image of the holiday season that seems to be changing color. Still, true believers don’t seem to mind.
Black Santas in predominantly African-American neighborhoods have become a regular thing for the holiday season, but lately we see more and more in areas that are mostly non-black.
“Santa is so symbolic in these times and a Santa is a Santa. Kids see no color they just see Santa and they know who he is and they know what he stands for,” said Carlton Benjamin, a professional Santa Claus.
Greenpoint, Brooklyn is known as New York City’s polish enclave. Yet black Santa is a hit.
Barry Perlmutter owns a company that is a Santa agency of sorts with a multi-cultural crew of Santas ready to be dispatched to any venue in need of a freelance Father Christmas.
Perlmutter said, “I might hear from an adult, not really a child: ‘Oh, that’s a black Santa or sometimes we have a Spanish Santa and the adults more than the children might feel a little weird, but I want to make sure that we have a diversified group of Santa Clauses that can go anywhere anytime and make everybody happy.”
And everybody’s happy here at a store in the suburban town of Bay Shore, New York where customers are predominantly white, but their Santa is black — and good for business, too.
For some kids in this suburban neighborhood, it didn’t even occur to them that Santa is black. When asked if they noticed anything different about him, they struggled to find an answer.
But some of the older children did notice something was a bit different.
“He’s black,” said 9-year-old Michael.
But it really didn’t take away from the wonderful fantasy that is Santa Claus. And Santa himself says it’s really not about seeing color, but more about feeling the Christmas spirit.