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Santa Penguin Please

by Peter Lindstrom

Dec 22, 2013 | Politics



My Christmas wish is to never hear the idiotic phrase “war on Christmas” ever again.

Everyone knows the so-called War on Christmas is really a commercial racket run by a big eastern syndicate (aka Fox News) that created the controversy to drive up ratings.

Which isn’t to say their aren’t hot holiday controversies, like the Dutch character “Zwarte Piet,” or “Black Pete.” In Dutch tradition, “Black Pete” helps St. Nicholas distribute toys to children on Dec. 6. While the original story said Pete’s name came from being caked in chimney soot, over 200 years “Black Pete” evolved into an offensive racial stereotype, allowing white people march in parades in blackface.

My Christmas wish is to never hear the idiotic phrase “war on Christmas” ever again.

The “Black Pete” controversy reached a new level when the largest newspaper in the Netherlands riffed on Nelson Mandela death occurring on “Black Pete’s” toy delivery day—everyone, even “Black Pete” supporters, were horrified and the paper apologized.

Then Fox News started their own holiday flap when anchor Megyn Kelly decided to rip apart a culture reporter named Aisha Harris for the sin of writing a mostly tongue-in-cheek blog about creating a new holiday tradition to transform Santa from a white dude into a cute penguin.

Kelly melted down on-air proceeding to reassure America that it was a scientific fact that Santa is and will always be a white man. (Kelly also declared Jesus could only be white, which really roiled the internet. In case you missed this famous fiasco, you can read about it here and here.)

Two days after the coal hit the fan, Kelly declared she might be wrong about Jesus being white and that her comments on Santa’s race were supposed to be humorous. Yet when Kelly’s guest agreed with Harris’ call for Santa diversity, she again proclaimed that facts prove Santa is both white and has a penis (OK, Kelly said Santa’s a dude; it’s the same thing). Soon, Kelly got unwanted help from commentator Neal Boortz, who declared Santa was white and he was so sick of seeing only black Martin Luther Kings on his holiday.

Kelly’s claims aside, the real history of Santa proves that Harris’ call for “Penguin Santa” is more in keeping with the holiday spirit. Blogger CGP Grey produced an acclaimed video history of Santa, detailing how he evolved from many cultures, how “Santa Claus” is an Americanization of the Dutch word “Sinterklaas,” and how the image that is universal today only evolved in the last few decades, thanks in large part to a corporate image known as “American Santa.”

Consider, too, the story Martin Luther’s Kris Kringle, which parallels Harris’ call for Penguin Santa. Long story short, Luther worried too many of his followers were celebrating the Catholic St. Nicholas, so he created a gift-giving angel, named “Christ Child” or “Christkindl” in old German. The name evolved into Kris Kringle in English-speaking countries—except it’s a woman’s name not another way to say Santa.

While Luther tried to prevent the Christkindl from having any physical image, weary parents soon told their questioning kids she was an angel dressed in gold and white—remember, in 16th century Germany, to use Megyn Kelly-speak, “it was a fact that angels were always girls.”

So if you think the fat guy is misogynist, arranging a visit from a female Kris Kringle might be your feminist alternative.

The story of Charles Dickens is also instructive: you owe it to yourself to read The Annotated Christmas Carol. It turns out Dickens’ challenged religious leaders of his time. Even Dickens’ title skewered fundamentalists when he used the word “carol,” a form of music once banned in Britain by Cromwell and the Puritans for being too festive. Even in 1843, efforts to ban carols from British churches were in full vigor.

Moral leaders of the time also pushed the Christian-based phrase “Happy Christmas” to replace “Merry Christmas.” While Christmas was always religious, the word “merry” was rooted in pagan traditions. Thus, Dickens, who preferred a holiday where people consumed gobs of food and liquor before going to church, expressed his feelings by using only “Merry Christmas” in his story.

Kathleen Parker, perhaps the only conservative who blasted Kelly on support of Santa diversity, has argued that if Fox and other conservatives continue to define the the world as a “war on (fill in the blank),” then the world will consist solely of winners and losers, and eventually your side will lose.

It is already happening: using language lifted from “War on Christmas” coverage, a Bavarian museum is waging a culture war against anyone who denies Santa is German. And for the first time in their annual holiday poll, Public Policy Polling asked about Santa’s race. Only 32 percent agreed with the phrase “it is a fact that Santa is white”—that sentence failed to win a majority of any group, including Romney voters and conservatives.

I for one believe a “Penguin Santa” can do much good—remember that when the bald eagle became a symbol of the environment, American lawmakers finally passed pesticide regulations and banned DDT. Since the entire penguin population is endangered, “Penguin Santa” could be the next environmental hero.

Peter Lindstrom is a political consultant and researcher. He lives in Washington, D.C.


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