When Megyn Kelly of Fox News says she wants a white Christmas, she doesn’t mean it in quite the same way Irving Berlin did.
By now there have been many responses to Kelly’s rant about how Santa Claus has to be white, but I thought I’d weigh in, as it touches upon subjects I’ve covered before. Apparently Kelly doesn’t realize that, although Santa is based on a real historical person (well, probably), he’s really a folkloric figure at this point.
Would the same people who insist on a white Santa also oppose a black Jack Frost, Father Time, or Tooth Fairy? Well, they might on Fox News. Besides, if we look at the historical St. Nicholas, he’s said to have lived in what is now Turkey, and to have been of Greek descent. So yes, technically white, but likely not as light-skinned as he’s typically depicted in the United States. In fact, the American appearance (and name, for that matter) of Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, and has a more Germanic look to him.
As such, his ethnicity in popular culture already changed considerably, from Middle Eastern to Teutonic. And Kelly’s notion of how he’s “always” looked likely only dates back to the nineteenth century. I’m not sure when black Santas started appearing, but it was likely sometime in the twentieth century. St. Nicholas died in the fifth century, so the amount of time in which the American Santa was distinctly a white guy in a red coat was really quite short indeed, relatively speaking.
Kelly goes on to insist Jesus was white, and maybe he was by the standards of government forms, but he certainly wasn’t the WASP-y guy we see in Western art and culture. You’ve probably seen the picture of a typical Palestinian Jew of Jesus’ time created by forensic anthropologists.
We don’t know exactly what he looked like, of course, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Kelly would suspect him of being a terrorist if she were to run into him. Besides, Jesus has been depicted by the church in Ethiopia as black for centuries now, so it’s hardly a product of modern political correctness however you look at it.
Also, the Gospel of Matthew insists that Jesus lived in Africa for a little while, so make of that what you will.