Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


December 26, 2013

LION AND THE LAMB: Santa in black and white

CROSSVILLE — When Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, had a holiday dress-up day two weeks ago, an African-American freshman at the school, Christopher Rougier, came dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He was then told by his teacher that he couldn’t be Santa because Santa is white. This raises an important question for us especially at this time of year: why has Santa usually been depicted as a white man?

The story of Santa actually begins with a Christian bishop, St. Nicholas, who lived in the third century in what is now Turkey. After receiving an inheritance of money, he began using it to help the poor and sick. One story tells how he secretly gave a bag of money to a father who had three daughters, but was unable to provide a dowry for them and had thought of selling them into servitude. After saving them from that fate Nicholas came to be known as a protector of children and for gift-giving, especially on the date of his death, Dec. 6. Nicholas, however, probably had olive-toned or tan skin.

In the U.S. during the 1800s a more secular image of this gift-giver began developing. In 1809 Washington Irving in his book Knickerbocker’s History of New York portrayed a pipe-smoking Nicholas flying over the rooftops in a wagon pulled by a single reindeer. In 1821 an anonymous illustrated poem entitled “The Children’s Friend” showed Santa dressed in furs. Then in 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (also known as “The Night Before Christmas”) that featured a plump, jolly Santa riding a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.

Finally in the late 1800s, helped along by political cartoonist Thomas Nast, the North American image of a jolly Santa dressed in a red suit with white fur trim, starting out from the North Pole with a fully-loaded sleigh and pulled by eight reindeer, became the standard rendition. Often this Santa was not only busy on Christmas Eve rooftop stopovers but also sponsored by department stores. For instance, he could be seen arriving at the end of a Thanksgiving Day parade or sitting with children on his lap, asking them what they wanted for Christmas and giving his blessing to the commercialization of this holiday.

This is probably the point where the image and icon of the white Santa relates most directly to the system of wealth distributions we have in our nation. Our corporate billionaires are all white, and there’s a certain logic to the belief in a patron saint who is white, as well.

Rhonda Ahrens, in an article in the December 22 Tennessean, raises an interesting question: “What if instead of making children a market, we made them a cause? We could call it ‘Santa Cause,’ dedicating ourselves to helping children worldwide get out of poverty, and gain access to education and health care.”

Would a Santa of color be more open to this idea? At least it would be getting us back to the dream of the original St. Nicholas.

• • •

This column by local writers is dedicated to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world of peace and justice.  Opinions expressed in “Lion and Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff.  For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014