Why is that Santa Black?

A small anecdote about race…

 

I work for a small branch in a huge, urban public library system.  Last Christmas the supervisor for the libraries in this area gave our branch a present….a plastic Santa face to put up as decoration.  Earlier this week, a kindergarten class came to the library for their regular visit.  One kid, very smart but sometimes irritating because he loves attention a little too much, asked, “Why is that Santa black?” 

 

The child was African-American as are most of the libraries patrons…..In fact, I’d say that 80-95% of the people who use this neighborhood library are African-American.  Out of a class of 22 kids, maybe 1 will be Caucasian. 

 

Anyway, the question took me aback.  The class was on its way out the door and I was a little flustered so the best I could come up with was to say, “Why not?  Why shouldn’t the Santa be black?”  I was also curious as to why he thought Santa’s must be white.  I guess he always saw Santa represented as white.  If I had more time perhaps I would have said something like, “Santa represents generosity and hospitality.  Santa never really existed, but everyone can be like Santa by being generous, hospitable, and cheerful.”  I also didn’t want to be the one to break it to him that Santa doesn’t exist. 

 

What would you have said to a six year old asking, “Why is that Santa black?”

What does this say about India and the U.S.?  For me, it was a reminder that kids notice everything.  When Satya and I have a child, we will have to make some conscious decisions about what we show our child.  Will we have a white Santa or a brown Santa?  I don’t know.  St. Nicholas was from Turkey so if we want to be historically accurate a brown Santa would be best.  On the other hand, my Caucasian family is the one that celebrates Christmas, not his Indian one.

Our MultiCultural Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! 

 

A while back some people asked me to blog about how Satya and I will be celebrating Christmas this year.  This year will be a bit different because we aren’t celebrating it in Minnesota with my family.

 

My aunt seems a little worried that I’ll turn my back on my Catholic upbringing.  For my birthday this year she gave me: cloth Christmas placemats and napkins, an Advent wreath, and some homemade soap from a monastery (smells like Christmas soap), and a batch of her special 7 Step Bars (one of my favorite sweets). 

 

Advent wreaths count down the weeks until Christmas.  The first Sunday of Advent one candle is lit.  This past weekend was the fourth Sunday so all candles were lit.  The third Sunday of Advent always has a pink candle.  The other candles are all either purple or blue-the colors of advent. Each Sunday has a name and a special theme.  For example, the third Sunday is called “Gaudete” which means “Rejoice” because soon Christmas will arrive.  The Advent wreath also came with prayers to say while lighting the candles.  Each week has a different prayer.  When I was a kid, we would make Advent wreaths in Wednesday night religion class and be sent home with prayers to say. 

 

Each Christmas season sometime after Thanksgiving my mom’s family would start baking.  They’d make fudge, gingerbread, spritz cookies, lemon bars, plantation bars, 7 Step Bars (graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut and more), and more.  On the weekends when we’d come to my grandparent’s house for Sunday Supper we’d play games and watch movies and eat lots of sweets.  The sweets would be stored in empty Blue Bunny ice cream buckets and put in “the cold room”-the coldest room of the upstairs near the attic where there was no heat.  This year, since we aren’t making it back, my aunt sent me my favorite kind.  Someday I’m sure I will make 7 Step bars with my own kids.  Luckily, Satya likes them too.

 

We did get a Christmas tree.  We got ours about two weeks ago.  It was a journey!  First we went to Home Depot because we heard they had $30 trees.  We didn’t like any of their trees.  Then, we went to Lowe’s.  Their trees weren’t much better, but they were on sale and we found a cute round one.  It was also bitterly cold outside-the wind was blowing hard.  We asked Lowe’s for a tree stand, but they sold out.  We went back to Home Depot but they also had sold out.  2 weeks before Christmas!!  Then we tried Target.  At Target we found some cute ornaments and some great multi-colored lights, but no tree stand. We even got so desperate as to go to Whole Foods because they had a lot of Christmas trees for sale.  They too were sold out of tree stands.  After Whole Foods, we got so sick of the whole thing we decided to go across the river to New Jersey.  We raced back to our apartment, put the tree in a mixing bowl in the tub so it wouldn’t dry out too much and then continued our search.  We had to drive almost an hour, but the first place we tried did have a tree stand. They sold out of their metal tree stands, but still had plenty of the plastic kind. 

 

Then, we decided to eat at one of our favorite South Indian restaurants, but it was packed so we walked down to an Italian one.  We returned home, put the tree in the stand and then decorated it.  When we were finished at roughly 12:30 am, Satya got on Skype and showed his parents our tree.  It was our first tree as a couple and Satya’s first Christmas tree period. 

 

Ornaments:  We got our ornaments at Pier 1, Target and A.C. Moore.  Pier 1 has some gorgeous ornaments.  We found a simple angel holding a harp go at the top of the tree. At Pier 1 I found a red bird ornament complete with green glitter to outline the wings and bright red tail feathers.  My grandmother had Christmas ornaments from her family going back to the ’20s and ’30s.  Some of my favorites were the delicate bird ornaments.  She even had little nests to go with the birds!  We also found the obligatory “Merry Christmas 2008” ornament to commemorate our first Christmas tree and first Christmas married.  Satya’s ornament taste runs more to the rustic.  He loves cabins for some reason.  One of his picks was a little house painted dark red with a tin roof.  Maybe some day we will have a little red cabin…We did try to find a star to go on top the tree. Stars and angels are the most popular choices for tree toppers.  Also, stars are more multicultural for us than angels since Hindu representations of angels don’t look like Christian representations of angels.  Stars are basically stars though and stars are also very important for Deepauli.  Once we find one we like we’ll replace the angel.  Other ornaments are a red reindeer, sled, white owl, and a beaded reindeer.  We have about 12 ornaments.  I figure that as the years go by we will slowly gather more. 

 

Tonight we plan on traveling to be with the family of my sister-in-law.  Her family is from Argentina so we will be having a very multicultural celebration.  We will be doing a simple gift exchange and eating lots of food.  Satya mentioned going to midnight Mass, but I don’t think anybody else is Catholic besides me.  We might try to find one, or may not.  Going to church does make Christmas seem more real-my favorite time of year for churchgoing was always Advent and the Christmas Season.