Help Wanted: Multicultural Santas Needed in S. Florida

Georgia East, Sun Sentinel, December 5, 2011

Ho, ho, ho is the same in any language. It’s Santa’s other expressions that can pose a challenge in multicultural South Florida.

Although St. Nick is known more for listening than his gift of gab, children can better relate to a Santa who talks like them, advocates say.

“I wish there were more Santas who speak Spanish,” said Bob Elkin, of Tampa, who serves as a director of the California-based Fraternal Order of Bearded Santas. “The best I can do is ‘Feliz Navidad.’ ”

While ethnic Santas are becoming more prevalent at community centers and churches, most are volunteers, and even in South Florida not enough are bilingual, Elkin said. And it’s not just Spanish that’s needed.

On Saturday, for the third year in a row, volunteer Alain Lafontant, of Miramar, will play Papa Noel, as he’s called in the Haitian community.

“It’s such a simple act, but it feels amazing,” said Lafontant about his role. He speaks to the kids in English, French or Haitian Creole.

Speaking their language helps “make them comfortable,” said Frantz Devilme, who runs the toys for the poor giveaway in Miami’s Little Haiti.

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There are more than 2.4 million South Florida residents who speak a foreign language, about a 7 percent increase since 2000, according to a 2007 census update.

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Wayne Barton, founder of the Wayne Barton Center, a school and community center in Boca Raton, said having a Santa of the same skin color can also make an impression on children.

“When Santa bears the face that kids can connect to, it can raise their self-esteem,” he said.

But that is not easy, either.

Even at the Charles J. Howard School, in Midland, Mich., known as the “Harvard of Santa Schools,” which has been around for 75 years, staff said they’re not seeing much diversity.

Holly Valent, assistant to the dean, said in the last 25 years they’ve trained thousands of new Santas from across the globe. Of them, about 15 were black and three Hispanic. She said they haven’t had any Asian Santas.

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  • Anonymous

    The modern Santa Claus was invented by Coca Cola as a marketing tool.

    The absurdity of a black or Hispanic Santa is incongruous with the tradition, but it hardly matters. The white European myths that inspired the character languish in obscurity.

  • Tom S.

    Bottom line – theres no such thing as a “multi-cultural” Santa Claus because Santa\Christmas originated in WHITE Europe. Just like theres no such thing as an African-German, African-Dutchman, African-Frenchman and IMO African-American!! I wish “those people” would stay the hell out of OUR traditions, you don’t see me celebrating “Kwanzaa” do ya?

    Why do people make everything so complicated?

  • Anonymous

    St. Nicholas was a Greek!

  • Anonymous

    Santa is based on a historic person, St. Nicholas, a European (read: White).

    While I have no blame for anyone relating better to someone of their own race, it’s not surprising to see another White enterprise being encouraged to undergo “diversification”. This amounts to a kind of ethnocide against Whites, as we are told that our culture has no legitimacy and must adapt to non-Whites.

    Asian Santas may seem like a joke, but it is no more ridiculous than an African Santa. I see no reason why we should not extend this diversification to Marmoset Santas, Dolphin Santas, Douglas Fir Santas, and Martian Santas. Perhaps we can one day have non-living santas too, like Hydrogen Santa and Limestone Santa.

  • Anonymous

    The impending attack on Santa will be a small scale analogy to the dynamics of race in the republican party. Non-whites won’t be excluded, they just won’t want to take part for their own reasons and in their wholesale rejection (in politics they have to stay on the democratic plantation to keep receiving favoritism), a preference one could say is a reflection of *their* racism, the absence of color they will say is more evidence of white racism. Cue Tim Wise ranting on NPR about racist Santa. So even where there is no exclusion, if non-whites don’t participate for their own reasons, that’s white people’s fault. And non-whites wonder why Amren came into being.

  • Bill R

    I’m actually all for this. Reduces the chance a kindly old guy playing Santa won’t be targeted in the polar bear hunting game by a herd of unruly black kids.

  • Anonymous

    There are no White families in Miami to speak of… The only White people are millionaires living on Miami Beach or South Miami and White tourists. Multi-cult schools ruined it for Whites in Miami…

  • Anonymous

    You know, the whole santa myth is based on a white guy (st. nic) who lived in Europe a long, long time ago. I’ve actually never seen a black or brown guy playing a santa, but I already know it just would not ‘look’ right.

    For an analogy, imagine if a bunch of white people moved to china and lived there for some years. They saw their neighbors celebrating kwan yu or some other ancient chinese diety (they do that stuff over there). So the white people said that since white kids can’t relate to some chinese actor playing a chinese mythical figure – hey – why don’t we get a couple of white guys to play those chinese gods!

    Any white guy who dressed up as an ancient chinese god and acted the part would look like – a fool! Imagine white guys playing black mythological characters such as anansi the spider or others!

  • Denmark

    You actually have Santa Claus academies over there in the states? I would love to see the curriculum.

    The film industry will surely try to make up for this lack of diversity in their next Christmas movie, starring Morgan Freeman in the role as the all knowing and wise black Santa.

    But if we truly want to boost the self esteem of ethnic kids, we should also diversify some of good old Santa’s animal flock. Flying reindeers may be unfamiliar to many youths, so we should also include some flying hippos from Africa, flying pandas from China and flying camels from the Middle East. That way we could all hold hands and sing kumbaya, while the snowflakes were gently melting on our noses and Jack Frost was keeping us warm, holding the cold winter at bay.

    On a serious note, if these ethnic minorities want their own Christmas characters, they can make them up themselves. Santa Claus has been, and always will be, a chubby charming white man from the North Pole, with a white beard. And he will stay that way!

  • Anonymous

    I listened to a news piece this morning about illigegal alien hispanic families who had overrated their visa in the US. The one interviewed was, we were told, typical. Arriving 18 years ago on a 6 month visa and ‘dropping under the radar’ the Honduran couple were quick to have a few ‘anchor babies’. The parents had worked, and paid taxes (wow!) and their kids were ‘well integrated’ at high school. But now, in states like Alabams, they are fearful of going out too much or even reporting a crime for fear that their illegal status mau come to light. Yes, they may have once – when there were plenty of low-paid jobs – paid a little tax, but now they do not (they have no jobs – allegedley) and they will not even report a crime! That’s comforting to know – that if you or your loved ones were being assaulted or robbed in the street, these wonderful people wouldn’t even call 911! You know what was most galling? After 18 years of living in this country their English was so poor! I guess there’s no need to learn English anymore… What a disaster!

  • Daniel

    Not having any Hispanic Santas doesn’t seem to slow the Hispanics down at Christmas. I live surrounded by Hispanics and they have more Christmas decorations than anywhere else and they really seems to get into Holidays more than most people.

    Me, I just keep dreaming of a “White Christmas”, just like the one’s I used to know.

  • rjp

    Encouraging blacks and hispanics to become Santas in just another step in open-armed welcoming of Babylon, it’s the encouragement of child sexual abuse.

  • Anonymous

    Santa Claus didn’t originate in Europe. It originated US with Coke.

    Poor Saint Nickolas. He got shafted. Golden walnuts weren’t good enough.

  • LA Refugee

    And on a lighter side, they will have to have a black Santa for the projects. No white man will go there after midnight.

  • Mr.White

    “I wish there were more Santas who speak Spanish,” said Bob Elkin, of Tampa, who serves as a director of the California-based Fraternal Order of Bearded Santas. “The best I can do is ‘Feliz Navidad.’ “

    ———————————————————-

    Elkin doesn’t sound hispanic to me! It’s bad enough we have racist hispanics demanding everything in their native tongue, delivered by those that look and act like them. Now we have to endure our own race (assuming Elkin is White) doing it on their behalf as well.

    When does the diversity nightmare ever end for us? Is there anything not sacred and off limits to social doctrine of diversity? Anything at all?

  • Anonymous

    Reply to # 6. Yeah, let’s make ourselves scarce so that mischevous pikininnies don’t target us!

  • Anonymous

    I think that we are taking the wrong approach here. Let’s encourage seperate but equal diversity. Instead of Santa Claus, the Mexican kids could have a Saint Pancho Villa or a Saint Che Guevara (they show great reverence for these terrorists). The blacks could have a kwanzaa Saint Malcolm X or a Saint Shaka Zulu (the military organizer of the black invasion of South Africa, no blacks were not indigenous to South Africa).

    As for Denmark’s comment: I am thinking of starting my own Santa Academy. I’ll ask the Dallas cowboys cheerleaders to donate some time for a good cause. They’ll sit on my lap and tell me what they want for Christmas:) Well, maybe it is a pie in the sky dream. It would be for a good cause. I guess you know what I want for Christmas. Hey, I’ve been blogging hard, I deserve a little R&R.

  • Anonymous

    One Christmas my grandson was invited into a Black fiend’s house,I just stood at the door and observed….All the Santa decorations had Black faces…

  • RegvlvsSeradly

    3 — Anonymous wrote at 8:20 PM on December 6:

    “St. Nicholas was a Greek!”

    Ok that is so, but “Santa Klaus” is a distinctly Anglo-Saxon traditional figure. From what I understand he is not found traditionally in Hispanic culture (including the culture of Spain) or in most of Southern Europe. There is a Dutch parallel (“Sinterklaas”) and a Russian/ Eastern Slavic one, but it the specifics are all different (Sinterklaas has a boat instead of a sleigh, for instance, and does not come on Christmas Eve, and instead of elves he has blackface toy-makers).

  • Anonymous

    Reply to #19. Quite right! Jolly good tradition, what? He certainly wasn’t black, what? I really enjoy that Anglo-Saxon tradition!

    It is interesting that there are reported to be shamanic and mystical associations. I read an article in which it was pointed out the much of the germanic tradition of the yule tree and the sleigh flying through the air as well as Santa going down the chimney all have mystical meanings, many of which may have come from Finland and the Lapps. The article pointed out the mystical meaning of the tree, and pine cones in particular, as symbols of the pineal gland in the brain, often called the third eye, which releases the sleep, wellness, and dream hormone melatonin not to mention the spirit-travel hormone DMT (DMT, The Spirit Molecule), which is chemically somewhat related to melatonin (and even serotonin), I have read.

    The reindeer, common in Lappland and really just domesticated cariboo, and the sleigh flying through the air symbolizes the shaman’s so-called astral projection on a spirit-journey. The chimney represented the shaman’s return to the teepee (I have forgotten the Lapp term for it, some Siberians call it a Chum) through the smoke hole. The English people are descended from three different waves of invaders from Denmark, so the English-Scandinavian connection is strong.

    I don’t know the origin of the misstletoe, but in Norse myth Loki tricked Hod, the blind god into throwing a misstletoe (the only plant which had not sworn not to kill Balder) at the beloved god Balder. The gods in Asgard played a game of throwing darts at Balder because they thought that none of the plants could harm him. I don’t know if that might have to do with the misstletoe traditions but it is a great way to get a kiss.