Santa Who? What sort of woke, politically-correct bubble would you have to be living in to think this was a good idea? Certainly, it is hard to imagine someone with little brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces; someone who remembers mum or dad reading them The Night Before Christmas, or watching The Miracle On 34th Street – or even Bad Santa – being so insensitive, so utterly unaware of the trouble they were about to cause.
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? The people who decided it would be a good idea to take Santa out of the Nelson Santa Parade?
A South Island city (and a Wakefield settlement to boot!) filled with Pakeha New Zealanders. Who was it who decided that the Thomas Nast/Coca-Cola Santa-Claus, the one which the English-speaking world has taken to its heart for more than a century, could be replaced by a Maori chieftain in a crimson korowai, without pissing a huge number of people off?
The poor old Nelson City Council, which poured $16,000 of its rate-payers’ money into the parade, had no idea that Santa was about to be indigenised. Neither, if the outrage being expressed on talkback radio and across social media is any guide, were the thousands of Pakeha parents and grandparents whose diminutive charges wandered home with them disconsolately – having been denied their chance to cheer-on jolly old St Nick.
What sort of woke, politically-correct bubble would you have to be living in to think this was a good idea? Certainly, it is hard to imagine someone with little brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces; someone who remembers mum or dad reading them The Night Before Christmas, or watching The Miracle On 34th Street – or even Bad Santa – being so insensitive, so utterly unaware of the trouble they were about to cause.
No, it would have to be someone for whom the Christmas Season holds no precious memories of wonder and joy. Someone who had never read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – let alone the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!
Such people are becoming more and more common in New Zealand as, with every passing census, the number of New Zealanders subscribing to Christianity – or even the Deity, himself – dwindles. Atheism is close to achieving majority status in this country and along with it the justification for purging New Zealand society of every officially recognised Pakeha religious and/or folk festival.
Not (God forbid!) the religious or folk festivals celebrated by New Zealand’s indigenous and immigrant communities. No woke atheist would dream of insulting the members of these communities by interpolating a figure from a completely different cultural milieu into their celebrations. No, it is only those unlucky enough to be born into the culture they (supposedly) share with these arrogant traducers of tradition who will find their special day out with the kids and grandkids ruined.
Perhaps the decision to introduce (unannounced and unauthorised) a Maori Santa Claus was conceived as some sort of payback for the A&P Show float featuring men and women in blackface which so outraged progressive metropolitan New Zealanders a fortnight or so ago?
“Let’s give these provincial deplorables a taste of their own medicine. See how they like it!” Was that the spirit in which the decision to disappoint thousands of eager children was taken? I hope not.
But, even if the decision to dispense with the traditional Santa Claus was taken with the most noble of progressive intentions. Even if it was undertaken as a means of giving the celebration of Christmas a uniquely New Zealand flavour, it nevertheless remains an act of the most aggressive racism.
Why? Because those who made it are guilty of either consciously or unconsciously rejecting the whole notion that the cherished traditions of a specific ethnic community should be considered sacrosanct and worthy of respect. Because the person, or persons, responsible for the decision arrogated to themselves the right to set aside the key cultural element by which a “Santa Parade” is defined: the beaming, white-haired and white-bearded old gentlemen clad in a red suit, edged with white fur, seated in a sleigh piled high with gifts and pulled through the air by flying reindeer. Absurd? Of course it’s absurd! But no more absurd than the Prophet Mohammed being carried to paradise on a flying horse. Or a god with the body of a human-being and the head of an elephant. Racism is no less racism because the contempt on display is being directed at members of one’s own tribe.
There will be consequences, of course. There always are when cultural traditions are traduced. How many little pairs of ears absorbed the angry, racially-charged comments that undoubtedly followed this indigenous interpolation of Santa Claus? How much of the good-will between Maori and Pakeha New Zealand was squandered? The metropolitan elites, who refuse to take what happened in Nelson seriously, are no doubt comforting themselves with the thought that the umbrage taken is a peculiarly “provincial” phenomenon. It is not. Pakeha racism is everywhere and those responsible for so arrogantly raining on Nelson’s Santa Parade have only made it worse.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 4 December 2018.