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Hollywood’s loyal opposition | by maryann johanson

is Santa Claus white?

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You may have heard that this week, Fox News Barbie doll Megyn Kelly insisted that Santa Claus and Jesus are white, that they are “historical figures” and the color of their skin is “verifiable fact.”

A few people objected. Like, the entire Internet.

She now insists that her comments were meant to constitute humor, and only “humorless” “race-baiting” Scrooges could possibly have interpreted her otherwise. Because of course it was clearly a joke.

You know who else was white? Hitler.


Is Santa Claus white? Is it a slur on trickster elves to deny that Santa is one of them? Has anyone contacted Santa to ask what he considers his racial makeup to be?

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • Liz D.

    I’m with you on Santa being an elf; he is called a “jolly old elf” in The Night Before Christmas, and he clearly has magical powers. I think northern elves are typically thought of as pale-skinned though, so perhaps Ms. Kelly is right.

    If she means the historical Saint Nicholas, the depictions of him don’t look anything like the depictions of Santa Claus (other than them both having beards), so I don’t think we’re really trying for historical accuracy. And anyway, I noticed when I looked at his Wikipedia page just now that he looks black in at least one of the pictures.

  • bronxbee

    i’m gonna have to go with white… the current nythology derives from northern european elves, gnomes and kringles, and father winter spirits… st. nicholas is the usual christian overlay to make christianity more appealing to converts… and even if one did insist that santa claus comes from st. nicholas of myra, he was a greek and a bishop in turkey. greeks would be surprised to be told they aren’t “white”. while i understand that minorities and others might be tired of the “white” mythology being the dominant one, you can’t retrofit it to make santa or jesus black, or cleopatera african (she was also of greek ancestory). but since santa claus is supposedly a representation of the “spirit” of christmas and generosity, there’s no reason not to represent “him” as white, black, asian or mixed race.

  • Bluejay

    I seem to recall that, in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, the Sandman appears differently to different people. To a woman from an African tribe, he was a dark-skinned man. To cats, he was a big black cat. To Western hipsters, he was basically Robert Smith from the Cure.

    I think Santa (as a modern cultural figure, whatever his historical origins) is like that, or should be like that. Which is to say: we made him up, and we can do whatever we like with him.

  • Bluejay

    while i understand that minorities and others might be tired of the “white” mythology being the dominant one, you can’t retrofit it to make santa or jesus black

    ” ‘Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change’ …Actually, I think that’s the official slogan of Oppression.” – Jon Stewart


  • bronxbee

    i think i didn’t express myself clearly… what *i’d* like to see is a wider acceptance of the myths and practices for holidays of the “minority”… i’m up for celebrating *anything* and am always happy to add to my cultural repertoire… and i would love to see our social structure add more worldwide culture to our calendars and celebrations. although i don’t want to then be accused of cultural rape.

  • RogerBW

    When Sinterklaas was Americanised into Santa Claus, he was a fat Dutch sailor. So yeah, probably. Haddon Sundblom’s Coca-Cola campaigns in the 1930s (where the red and white comes from) just locked that in.

    St Nicholas of Smyrna is another matter entirely.

  • NorthernStar

    As Father Christmas and his elves hail from the far north, they are likely white. There isn’t much light up there and darker skinned people would suffer from terrible rickets. White skin is, after all, merely a gene mutation that allowed humanity to live out of Africa.

    Unless flying reindeer is extremely rich in vitamin d, of course…

  • Arthur

    I don’t give a hoot what color Santa is. What strikes me is the subjective identification of humor by a Fox News figurehead. She characterizes this tempest in a teapot as humor, so get over it, but if Jon Stewart strikes one of their nerves, that’s not humor, that’s hating.

  • Dr. Rocketscience
  • MisterAntrobus

    Saint Nicholas was Greek by heritage and lived in Turkey. Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew. Both would be racially Caucasian in the broadest sense, but not in the Northern/Western European sense of “white” that Ms. Kelly probably meant. Santa Claus is a fictional character and it matters not a whit what his racial depiction is.

  • Jurgan

    “Haddon Sundblom’s Coca-Cola campaigns in the 1930s (where the red and white comes from)”


  • Danielm80

    Why am I suddenly thinking of “The Fire Balloons” by Ray Bradbury?

  • MaryAnn Johanson

    not in the Northern/Western European sense of “white”

    Not in the Fox News sense of “white.”

    Fixed that for ya. :->

  • Tim Norton

    I get it. It’s humor, because racism is funny. I hope Santa will give Megyn a nice lump of coal in her stocking.

  • Judy

    Jon Stewart’s take on this is perfect.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I always preferred the Hispanic tradition of the Three Kings myself.

    I will agree with Fox News that Santa Claus is definitely not a penguin, Or at least he wouldn’t be if he existed in real life. And I’m pretty sure the original Saint Nicholas wasn’t a penguin either. Because some church historian would have mentioned it…

  • Tonio Kruger

    Actually the Slate columnist who started all this wasn’t arguing on behalf of a black Santa. After all, she had black Santas in her house while she was growing up and they didn’t seem to help much, according to her essay.

    She was arguing that the traditional Santa Claus figure should be replaced by a penguin — though I’m guessing she didn’t mean any of the penguins who appear at the climax of Batman Returns.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Are you a light elf or a dark elf?
    –Billie Burke, The Wizard of Claus (1939)

  • Tonio Kruger

    I have joked for years that the original Virgin Mary probably looked more like the Virgin of Guadalupe than the traditional blonde Madonna which appears in most Northern European art if for no other reason that there were not a whole lot of blue-eyed blondes running around first century Palestine. Indeed, the Catholic Church — hardly the most flexible of institutions — has winked for centuries at those artists who chose to portray the Virgin Mary as Japanese, African, etc, depending on what country those artists were in, as long as the worshippers of said images were encouraged to adopt Catholicism.
    And of course the traditional Three Kings of biblical lore were supposed to be symbolic representatives of Europe, Africa and Asia.

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