Our Santa Is Black—Here's Why

Representation is important year-round, but especially during the holidays.

Little girl looks up at Black Santa

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Winter is here and ‘tis the very merry season for chilly weather, festive music, family gatherings, and holiday feasts. It’s a favorite time of year for so many as many cultures observe hundreds of celebrations and traditions between November and January. More than 2 billion people celebrate Christmas worldwide, and for many African American families, ensuring young children have representation and Black presence throughout the holidays remains a high priority. Santa Claus is a holiday icon that represents joy, magic, and peace for children around the world, and Black Santa reminds our kids that they, too, are filled with all of those things.

While a more melanated Santa is exciting for Black children, the normalization of Black Santa is essential for people of all races and cultures. Events featuring diverse depictions of Santa have become more prominent over the last several years. It was just 2016 when The Mall of America invited guests to share their Christmas wish list with its first Black Santa. That was a monumental leap in the name of diversity as many people, including Black families, had never seen a Black Santa.

Zsaval is a mother of two young boys and recalls first meeting Black Santa when she was a child—a jolly man with a familiar face and recognizable voice. In an era when Black Santa was only alive in dreams, Zsaval’s father brought the excitement of Santa Claus to life, dressing up as Old Saint Nick for her family and their community.

Her sweet childhood memories became the catalyst to ensuring her children knew Black Santa as the Santa. “I was shopping with a friend and saw a cookie jar with Black Santa. I was so excited to see his face again and immediately thought, ‘My children should be seeing this Santa all the time.’” Zsaval has since started replacing holiday decorations with faces that are more meaningful to her and her children.

Being intentional about Black representation during the holidays can be challenging for families who live in areas that lack diversity. Rashad is a father of three committed to ensuring the Black culture is present for his children. However, finding local holiday gifts and decorations representing his biracial children can be frustrating in his city.  

“Walking into a store and buying a holiday item with a person of color represented rarely happens. We get around that by shopping online and at Black-owned businesses when we can but it’s problematic.

My son is coming into his Black identity, and I love observing and guiding him,” says Rashad. “When we are looking at Christmas present ideas, I introduce them to products made by and for people of color. Representation is essential every day but especially during the holidays.”

Experiencing Black Santa was limited for many families until recent years so parents often settled for what they had access to, which was likely a European version of Santa Claus. However, as one mother shares, representation throughout the holidays can become a priority when there is a shift in the racial identities throughout a family. 

After Paige and her husband adopted two children at birth, they ensured that Black culture was a constant in their children’s lives. “I grew up in a white family with minimal focus on exposure to racial diversity. Santa was always white at our house, and I never thought about the idea of Black Santa until I had my children,” says Paige. “As a parent, I started listening to information from other transracial families, and we all agreed that representation was a missing but important component in our families. As their mom, it is my job to bridge the gap for my children.” 

One of a parent's most rewarding jobs is enriching a child’s life, reminding them of their value in the world. Without continuous representation throughout their lives, it becomes much harder to reinforce those teachings for Black children. Parents of Black children strive to surround themselves with Black voices and presence in all areas of life, and the holidays are no different.

If you aren't able to meet Black Santa this year, there are still ways to ensure that Black presence is front and center through the holidays.

01 of 03

Buy Black

Support Black-owned businesses as you work through your shopping list, and don’t forget to leave the business card attached to the gift! 

02 of 03

Listen to New Artists

Each year brings new holiday songs and renditions of the classics. Listen to new Black artists singing holiday classics to show support.  

03 of 03

Travel the Culinary Diaspora

Load your menu and plate with your favorite holiday dishes but take your adventures a step further with a culinary lesson. As you pass the cornbread and sweet potatoes, take your guests on a journey through Africa and the cultural history behind the traditional foods at the table. 

Every festive figurine displayed proudly around the house or neighborhood is another opportunity for Black children to see themselves as a star in the holiday wonder and magic. Hopefully, the lines for meeting their very own Black Santa will be longer with each passing year, filled with the joy of the holiday season.

From wrapping paper to greeting cards, Thanksgiving to Christmas and beyond—may we continue to be intentional as a community for the prosperity of Black culture and joy of Black children worldwide.

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