I be­lieve in a dif­fer­ent Santa

Don’t apol­o­gise for Maori Fa­ther Christ­mas, the fes­tive fel­low ex­ists in what­ever shape, colour or creed you need.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

I’m not hat­ing on those who be­lieve Santa is a ro­tund old white guy who lives near the North Pole and spends once a night ev­ery De­cem­ber fly­ing around the world break­ing into homes, and re­ward­ing­well­be­haved chil­dren with gifts.

Af­ter all, as a child, I laboured un­der that very delu­sion. It didn’t mat­ter that on the Christ­mas cards of the day, Santa seemed to live some­where re­ally snowy, whereas here in New Zealand, out­side it was hot-as.

I just as­sumed his suit would have some spe­cial tem­per­a­ture con­trol fea­tures that al­lowed him to func­tion com­fort­ably, what­ever coun­try he was de­liv­er­ing presents to.

In the house I grew up in, it didn’t even mat­ter that we had never used our fire­place, and no one was re­ally sure whether the chim­ney was open all the way to the top.

Ev­ery year on Christ­mas Eve, be­fore go­ing to sleep, I would get ex­cited as I looked at the tree in our sit­ting room. And I would marvel that even on a planet as vast as Earth, with so­many homes to visit, Santa and his rein­deer would take the trou­ble to land on our fam­ily’s hum­ble lit­tle roof in Te Atatu North.

As the years passed, I grad­u­ally be­gan to ques­tion Santa’s gift-giv­ing when he al­ways seemed to drop off the same presents: shorts and a T-shirt.

I was 8 years old when I de­cided to test once and for all whether Santa was real, and walked around out­side on Christ­mas Eve night, strain­ing to hear the jin­gling of his rein­deer’s bells as they flew over.

And then I learned about the real-life Santa, St Ni­cholas, who was born around 280AD in Ly­cia, BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF an area that is part of present­day Tur­key. He lost his par­ents when still a young man but they left him lots of money and the de­vout Chris­tian used it to help the poor and the sick.

But that orig­i­nal Santa looked noth­ing like the Santa on our Christ­mas cards ei­ther, and grad­u­ally I re­alised that our Santa is for chil­dren, and that the most loved ver­sion of his look is the one cre­ated by Coca Cola in 1931.

Chil­dren have their own jour­neys to go on­when it comes to their un­der­stand­ing of Santa. But I am­ab­so­lutely sure they wouldn’t turn in­sane and racist if the Santa at their pa­rade didn’t look like the one Coke came up with.

Be­cause that’s ex­actly what a whole heap of adults have done af­ter the Nel­son Santa Pa­rade dared to be dif­fer­ent by hav­ing a Maori Santa. And some of the racism that fol­lowed on­line has now been shared thou­sands of times.

In fact, I ap­plaud Nel­son for hav­ing aMaori Santa. It hon­ours Christ­mas but also re­flects our place in the world and our tra­di­tions, and I wish the pa­rade’s or­gan­is­ers hadn’t apol­o­gised. Hope­fully next year, other re­gions aren’t afraid to do some­thing sim­i­lar. I used to think Santa had to be white too un­til I was in Samoa one time a while back and saw a pa­rade that a fam­ily were putting on for their vil­lage. Santa was Samoan, and the kids didn’t look any less de­lighted.

Maybe, what­ever the eth­nic­ity, some peo­ple still want Santa to be dressed up like a Coca Cola ad­vert. But for a Christ­mas pa­rade and a de­bate about Santa to bring out such a prej­u­diced and ugly side of peo­ple, is just weird. I guess racists like Christ­mas, too.

Yes, Nel­son’s pa­rade Santa was as good as any Santa around the world.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.