For the first time in their 66-year history, Disney parks have welcomed a Black Santa into their annual holiday festivities.
CNN’s Natasha Chen reported that “at both Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, a Black Santa has been spotted at certain meet-and-greets and at after-hours Christmas parties.”
Although Disney didn’t issue a press release about their inclusive new efforts in presenting a Black Santa to park visitors, a spokesperson said, “Santa Claus is represented in various ways in local and regional communities and around the world — and in that spirit, Santa Claus will reflect the diversity of surrounding communities at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.”
“Never in life did I think Disney would actually put a Black Santa in the parks,” Victoria Wade, a theme park social media influencer who also happens to be Black, told CNN in an interview. “With Disney implementing this change as part of their diversity and inclusion initiative, it really allows me to feel more comfortable and seen when I visit the parks. Ultimately it makes me feel more accepted, welcome and I’m thrilled at what this will do for children of all backgrounds when they visit Disney parks.”
Disney theme parks aren’t the only place you’re likely to see a Black Santa this year either, as more and more retailers and businesses welcome increased diversity and inclusion into their holiday efforts.
Corky Siemaszko of NBC News reported that “Old Navy is launching a virtual ‘Santa BOOT Camp’ to train would-be Kris Kringles of color in the art of spreading holiday cheer and making the ranks of the people who play the iconic Christmas character a little less white.”
According to Siemaszko, “other stores like Macy’s and major retail outlets like the Mall of America in Minnesota have also tried to diversify their Santa ranks, delighting many shoppers while dismaying others.”
In a statement, Old Navy stood by their efforts, saying that the company “stands for inclusivity and has a zero-tolerance policy for workplace discrimination and harassment.”
“Our brand is deeply committed to ensuring all employees — inclusive of our in-store Santas — are treated with respect and dignity,” the retailer added.
Dion “Santa Dee” Sinclair, who often goes by the tagline “The Real Black Santa,” commented on the emerging trend of Black Santas becoming more commonplace.
“I’m not about politics, and I’m a faith-based Santa, so I know I am not the reason for the season. I’m happy to share that with anyone willing to listen,” Sinclair said. “If I’m not your kind of Santa, that’s OK. I will keep smiling and wishing the kids Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.”
Tim “Santa Tim” Connaghan, who works as the national Santa for the Marine Corps and Toys for Tots, agreed, saying, “Businesses like Old Navy understand that more and more customers want their Santas to look like them.
“I think, in a couple of years, most people won’t be looking for Santas with a white beard, and won’t be expecting a Santa that looks like Tim Allen [who starred in the popular film series The Santa Clause.],” Connaghan said. “Santa is constantly evolving.”
Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.