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.
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.