My parents never did white angels in our house at Christmas, and the same went for Santa. When I prayed for a white Christmas, they wanted to be sure the only thing I had in mind was snow. Never mind that out in the world, Santa was a white man with a whiter beard: at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, in The Night Before Christmas, at the mall, everywhere. They never explicitly discussed Santa’s color but our representations at home showed him with a brown face. Even when I stopped believing in Santa Claus, it was nice that he looked like me.,
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter. Santa’s a fake, a symbol trotted out once a year to put smiles on children’s faces. And anything that brings sweet smiles Christmas morning can’t really be all that bad, can it? But tiring as it is, Christmas is another one of those times we get caught in battle over representation. How do I find my daughter dolls that look like her? And you can’t really worry about black dolls without having to face the face of Father Christmas. Our tree and mantel at home was decorated with sweet black cherubs and smiling black Santas. When gifted with angel candle holders, my mom set me down with paint to cover their white faces and blue eyes so they fit in with the rest of the residents in our Christmas village.
I’ve been told this is unnecessary, that children don’t understand race the the way adults do, and so turning them against white Santa makes them grow up too fast. But my parents (and now I) were just a little uncomfortable with this bearded man with moral authority, who judges us with a literal list, doesn’t always reflect the authority figures in our own families. Children need to know need to know they’re important and the people in their communities are important. Christmas is an opportunity for to teach this lesson and since it’s a big deal to kids, they’ll learn it well. But then again, maybe I just had it easy; with his big belly and full beard, my dad looked a lot like Santa to me.
Do you insist on black Santas and black angels each Christmas or does it not matter?
Words: Desiree Browne