This question gets raised every now and then. Most people think the question is ridiculous. For completely opposite reasons. Of course the majority probably thinks that Santa can be black but surely white skin colour is more “real” or genuine. And admittedly it is more traditional for a Santa.
In this blog post I will now give the one and true ultimate answer to the title question.
Firstly, Santa is most definitely real. There is nothing fake about Santa Claus. You might say that Santa is not a real person and that is sort of true. But only regarding some interpretations of the word person.
In fact, let’s take a thought experiment ride through an analogy. Imagine for a while that Gotham City existed and that Bruce Wayne would be the vigilante justice distributor he is. In that world, is Batman real? Certainly his actions have consequences. But are those actions executed by Batman or by a human being wearing a multi-purpose suit? Is Batman just a man in a suit?
Of course he is not. He is so much more. It’s been proven over and over again.
Besides Batman is in no way limited by Bruce Wayne. Even though he is the most notable Batman he is not the only one there has been. You can change the man in the suit. You can change the suit. Batman would still exist. But are the others just playing Batman or are they also Batman? Is there just one true Batman? I claim that what Batman is, is an idea (like Liam Neeson says).
If Bruce Wayne went to a costume event dressed up as Batman, would you say that he is then Batman or dressed up like Batman? You’d say that, provided that he behaves like a person should behave in an event like that, he is just dressed up as Batman. Even Bruce Wayne can wear Batman clothes and not be Batman. It’s not about Bruce and what he wears.
Bruce Wayne becomes a character that is not him when he is Batman. When he goes out to hunt criminals, he becomes an idea. It does not matter who wears the clothes as long as they too manage to become that idea. It doesn’t matter that for a while Dick Grayson is subbing in for Bruce. He was for that time, the real Batman. If you act like Batman, you are Batman. Brucewayness is a nonessential property of batmanhood, is what a philosopher would say.
It is the same for Santa in the real world. Every single time I put on the Santa gear, I hear Liam Neeson telling me: “You have to become an idea”. And I try my best to do that. Santa is an idea, much like Batman in Gotham is an idea. An idea that becomes flesh and blood.
Then the question is, is white skin an essential property of santahood? It is not. Not even the white beard is. Or the red clothes. You can forget all about that. Yes, it’s more difficult to be Batman without the fancy gizmos but the idea of Batman is not in the gadgetry. It’s more in the attitude. The moral principles. The modus operandi. The feeling you get when you see him. Those are the essential properties of Batman and of Santa.
It is difficult to say exactly what it is they are. With Santa it’s childhood, joy, unconditional love, philanthropy without limits, excitement, butterflies, respect, and many other things beyond listing. That’s what Santa is about. If you can be all that Santa truly is and bring about the emotions that Santa should bring, then by all reasonable definitions, you are Santa.
It does not matter if you just dropped off the toys under the tree when the children were “asleep” (as if they could). For that brief moment you were Batman. You became an idea. You were Santa.
PS. I have that huge Batman sticker attached to a wall here. Every morning when I wake up it’s the first thing I see. To remind to become an idea.
Anyhoo, here’s a bad taxidermy head I found in the local shop.
[“But if a mall Santa is black the kids will say that he’s not the real Santa and that real Santa is white”, you might say. Then you should probably say that today Santa is black because he chose to be. Much like the clothes he chooses. Santa can be any colour or gender. You become Santa when you are possessed by the idea. Go talk to Santa and see for yourself. Are they behaving just like Santa? Then that is the real Santa.]