With the exception of Zwarte Piet (Black Peter – Saint Nicholas’ companion in Holland), nearly all images of Christmas characters are white.
While I think it is ok to have a specific character be any particular colour/race/religion, there is no need for ALL characters to be one ‘type’ of person. It’s a bit like the old goodies in white hats and baddies in black hats – lots of good people actually prefer to wear black, and there are now stories of good witches and ninjas etc wearing black.
So is Santa black? Given he keeps himself hidden at the North Pole and comes into our homes when we are asleep, who knows what he really looks like? For all we know, he has purple skin and green hair!!
I have just read an article by Peggy Albers about the impact of telling a single story. Called ‘Why is Santa black?’ the article explains that having a single story leads us to have a single perspective on things and can lead to narrow thinking.
Peggy suggests we read some stories from a different perspective and stories that show certain groups in different ways.
For example, I once read a version of Snow White told from the step- mother’s perspective. It told of her concerns about the teenager dropping rubbish everywhere (like a trail in the woods!), needing to be tricked into eating healthy food (like apples) and her relationship with the woodsman before running away. It was fun but children hearing that may get to understand that there is always another perspective, another side to the story – and that is certainly a valuable lesson to learn.
Peggy gives examples of Jewish characters being portrayed as poor, living with tension or fearful of supernatural forces. The main reading I have done with Jewish characters have been set in or around World War 2 (so yes they were living with tension) or dealing with expectations based on deceased relatives (so supernatural forces) – so my own experience agrees with Peggy’s research. However, I also have some life experiences (and heard many other stereotypes) so have a broader perspective of Jews – but I can see how books give a limited view.
I intend now to get and read ‘Twas the night before Christmas: An African American version* to broaden my Christmas story – and am glad I have read (and reviewed) some revised versions of Christmas stories such as:
Interestingly, there is a lot of debate about Zwarte Piet – many say he is racist and based on a book written in the 1850s while others say his origins are much older and relate to traditional European Santas having a black assistant who was invisible in the darkness and travelled through chimneys (so was covered in black soot). Accepting the book version of Zwarte Piet gives a different perspective of the character, whereas the historical version has more depth and fewer racist overtones – again, a single story impacts on the perceptions.
The real symbols of Santa are a red suit, big belly and a white beard.
Yes, most images of Santa do have him as white but I don’t think that has to be the case (and will consciously use some other skin tones from here on myself).
And life is certainly more interesting when we have a variety of stories and cultures, so I’m all for some different Christmas and Santa stories (and there are a few around!)
So, what colour skin does Santa have in your mind? Other than it currently being unusual, would you have an issue with Santa being African or Asian in appearance?
* So far, I haven’t had much luck finding this book. It was written and illustrated by Melodye Benson Rosales, and published in October 1996.
by Mary Higgins and Carol Higgins Clark
published by Pocket Books (division of Simon & Schuster), New York, 2000
Most Christmas books, and certainly the majority of the books we review at Love Santa, are aimed at children but I came across this one and thought it would be fun to review it.
Described as mother “Queen of suspense” and daughter “bestselling author” working together for the first time to “create an exciting and entertaining suspense novel”, I expected to enjoy the story.
In the days before Christmas, private investigator Regan rushes across country to be with her injured mystery-writer mother, just in time for her father and a young mother to be kidnapped. Regan and new acquaintance amateur-detective Alvirah helped the police look the kidnappers and rescue the victims.
Regan and Alviarah are characters in their own series of books, one written by Mary and one by Carol.
Let me start by stating I love reading crime stories and some of my favourite authors are Jo Nesbo, Kathy Reichs, Jonathon Kellerman, Ian Rankin, J D Robb and Kerry Greenwood, so I anticipated a good read blending crime and Christmas!
There are light crime stories and others are more complex and deeper, and Deck the Halls certainly falls into the lighter category.
I found the writing to be very basic and superficial, with obvious points explained as if the reader is not very bright. It did improve as the book progressed so either I got used to it or the writers collaborated better as they went along.
It is suitable for teens as there is no real violence or frightening elements, nor other adult content. And the simplicity of the story would work better for younger teens, perhaps than adults like me.
The Christmas element of the book was low – just the proximity to Christmas Day and one character working as Santa in a department store.
Apparently there are some other Christmas books written by this duo but I won’t be rushing out to find any of them.
So I did finish the book and didn’t hate it, but I can’t truly recommend it for serious crime readers or those who appreciate good writing.
by Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Rachel Wells
published by Usborne Publishing, London, 2016
It was my eight year old son who grabbed this book off the shelf last night and begged me to read it. And then demanded to touch the textured part of each page.
So while these may be designed for the youngest of children, it has appeal to many age groups!
A series of Santa’s elves are shown, each with an explanation of how it is different to ‘my’ elf. Each page has a different texture included for little fingers to explore.
The pictures are cute and brightly coloured which makes the book appealing to all. I like that these books are interactive and teach young children various adjectives, and think that this should be on every baby/toddler Christmas bookshelf!
How many times did you pull on a bonbon this Christmas?
We had them at two family functions, and actually found different jokes in each set. Not that they are necessarily jokes we haven’t heard before, but at least there was variety!
So to add some post-Christmas cheer (or groans as you may be inclined!) here are some of the jokes I came across this year… and they are all family friendly, too!
What do you call a bankrupt Santa?
What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus?
A rebel without a Claus
Where does Santa go when he’s sick?
the elf centre
What did the sea say to Santa?
Nothing! But it did wave…
What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees?
What do you call a dog who works for Santa?
What do Santa’s little helpers learn at school?
What do monkeys sing at Christmas?
Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells
What goes OH OH OH?
Santa walking backwards!
Why is it getting harders to buy advent calendars?
Because their days are numbered
Why does Santa love gardening?
Because he goes HO HO HO!
What is the best Christmas present in the world?
A broken drum – you just can’t beat it!
What nationality is Santa?
What do you get when Santa stops moving?
Why is it getting harder to buy Advent Calendars?
They’re days are numbered
Who is Santa’s favourite singer?
What is green and goes camping?
A Brussel Scout
What’s the difference between a boogie and a Brussel spout?
Kids don’t eat sprouts
There were lots of non-Christmas and non-Santa jokes in our 2014 bonbons if you want some more to read or share!
So how many unwanted presents did you get for Christmas?
Most of us try hard to give gifts someone wants to get, but not everyone gets it right so we sometimes (often?) get gifts that are not useful or not suitable for us.
Seriously, what do you do with those presents? Let us know in the comments as we all come across this issue from time to time!
I can’t say I’ve tried all of these, but here are some ideas for those presents when you can’t openly improve the situation…
It is now Christmas Day and we wish you a wonderful day filled with love, laughter and friendship.
If you’re in a heat wave like us, remember to drink plenty of water and stay cool.
Day 23! That means we’re almost finished our advent calendars and Christmas is almost here…
The Lego City calendar produced a sleigh tonight – to which the husky from last night can be attached to pull it along.
My daughter discovered a snowman in her Lego Friends calendar – one that looks quite different to those already discovered in the City calendar this year or in the 2015 Friends calendar. Given it’s shape and size, I’m now wondering if last night’s table was meant for the Christmas pudding, or as a stand for the snowman! What do you think?
SO it is looking like Santa will arrive in Lego City on Christmas Eve – but will he also arrive for Naomi and Emma?
And if you are keenly following along with our advent calendars, you can do back to day one or sneak back to read what happened in 2015.
Day 22 – the big question from now on is ‘where is Santa?’ With only three flaps left in advent calendars, there are not many more options for when Santa appears! Logically, it will be on Christmas Eve 🙂
Neither calendar provided Santa or anything Christmassy… again, my daughter was upset at the non-Christmas element and was in tears because “a table is boring!” I explained the table suited last night’s Christmas pudding, but she remained disappointed.
The City calendar contained a husky dog, some bones and a water trough with bucket.
Wow, we’re onto day 21 so there are only three more flaps to open – and school has now finished for the year around Australia so the excitement is definitely building now 🙂
Lego City now has a Christmas tree, complete with a star on top and some lights.
Day 20 of the Lego Friends calendar showed up a stove and a big chicken leg – even the chicken had to be put together in Lego fashion!
On Saturday night we were lucky enough to be amongst the Melbourne Zoo members who attended their Christmas party.
It was a lot of fun!
For our turn with Santa, a Christmas fairy greeted us and took us into Santa’s cave for a personal chat with Santa then a chance to take a photo. Each child also got an early gift, but only if they could answer a special question from Santa (like “how many reindeer pull my sleigh” and “name two of my reindeer other than Rudolph“.)
Within the winter wonderland, there were multiple snow machines, a couple of craft activities, a silent disco (we spent ages in there!), a family photo scene (complete with snow covered mountains and a Rudolph statue) and a chance to pose with the Penguins of Madagascar.
A jungle gym, festooned in tinsel and bells was very popular, as was an inflatable maze. There was also a little kids area with Christmassy playthings and dressups.
We were at the zoo, so of course we also walked around to see some animals before enjoying the Christmas activities. Unfortunately, many of the animals had decided to have a nap or otherwise stay out of view so we didn’t see many, but it was nice to walk around in the evening and experience a different sort of atmosphere at the zoo.
To keep us all entertained outside of Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Cave, there were various entertainment options provided.