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Santa Claus continues to evolve as holiday season nears

Santa Claus greets children at University Mall in Provo Friday, Nov. 29, 2013.
Santa Claus greets children at University Mall in Provo Friday, Nov. 29, 2013.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

How Santa Claus wound up as a toy-making kingpin of Christmas cheer has been a subject of debate in recent weeks.

Buzzfeed released a video that shows the evolution of Kris Kringle throughout the years. In the animated video, Buzzfeed details how Saint Nicholas developed into the version of Santa Claus seen commonly today through culture. All the different versions of Santa Claus — from the no-pants-wearing, deity version created by the Dutch in the 17th century to the pipe-smoking interpretation created 100 years later — are featured in the video.

How would Santa fit into current culture, though? Buzzfeed published what Santa’s Instagram account would look like. It features snapshots of reindeer, elves and holiday cookies.

Santa’s evolution and origins continue to be debated today. The Associated Press recently reported how Santa is represented differently by many cultures across the world.

“Santa Claus may be popularly known as a white-bearded benefactor with Dutch-English origins, but multiethnic versions of Santa are making the rounds out there too — illustrating that in an increasingly diverse United States, Santa takes on whatever color you imagine him to be,” wrote Russell Contreras for the AP.

The AP also explains how there’s still a debate among many Americans about Santa’s skin color. Recently, Fox News anchor Meghan Kelly sparked controversy when she said Santa was white, according to the Deseret News.

“FOX News host Megyn Kelly says airing a piece last week that declared Santa was white was meant to be humorous,” wrote Matthew Brown for the Deseret News.

Kelly was responding to an article written by Aisha Harris for Slate, titled “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore.” Harris writes that Santa shouldn’t be reflected as a white, jolly old man, but rather as a penguin because of the impact he has on children.

“Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you: He exists as an incredibly powerful image in the imaginations of children across the country (and beyond, of course). That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white — and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a 'joke' or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes — helps perpetuate the whole 'white-as-default' notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).”

Seth Lipsky responded to Harris’ post in his own article for the New York Post. The article related Harris’ concern over Santa’s origins to the famed “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” article, which was published in the New York Sun in 1897.

“You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus,” the Sun told Virginia, according to the New York Post, “but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”


Twitter: @hscribner