Political correctness gone mad is the only way to describe the nonsense of this year’s Nelson Santa Parade. Gone was the traditional Santa with his full white beard and red suit replaced by a Maori man wearing a red korowai, or cloak.
The Santa Parade for me is about children and the joy and mystery of Christmas. I vividly remember as a young boy watching the mix of floats go past and the growing excitement of seeing the last float with the REAL SANTA. I have repeated the same experience with my own children. Sunday’s Santa Parade without Santa just fell flat.
The issue is not the ethnicity of our Santa. I do not care whether he is Maori, European, Indian, Chinese or Samoan. But to be Santa, he needs the traditional white beard and red suit.
I found the justification for the Santa switch as annoying as the parade. We are told we need a Maori Santa in a cloak to reflect our biculturalism and multiculturalism. I welcome Nelson’s increased diversity but that is no reason to trash our own cultural traditions.
The claim that a third of Nelson people were not born here is hardly a good reason to dump our traditional Santa. The largest group of new Nelsonians is from other parts of New Zealand. The biggest group from overseas is 5,500 from the UK, as compared to 500 from Asia, and 400 from the Pacific. Nelson’s population is 85% European, 8% Maori, 4% Asian and 2% Pacific. Nor do I accept that Santa is just for Europeans.
Some of the Facebook comments were even more over the top, claiming Santa was a symbol of British colonisation and domination. Why does everything have to be so political? Santa is a symbol of fun and mystery. He is about giving anonymously and the joy of childhood fantasy.
Auckland’s Santa Parade has also got itself caught in controversy this year. The man playing Santa for the last five years, Neville Baker, caused an uproar from the PC Brigade when he said Santa should be a man. He was initially dismissed but later reinstated.
These discrimination debates over sex, race and age can be taken too far. An attractive young woman is not the ideal candidate to play Santa just as I am not the best person to model bikinis.
Our community does need to celebrate our diversity of cultures. I love our Whakatu Marae, the greater profile we now give Waitangi Day and the increased focus on Maori culture in our schools. I love seeing the recognition of festivals like Matariki, the Chinese New Year and the celebration of Diwali. But this is no reason to radically change existing cultural traditions like the celebration of Christmas, New Year or Easter.
My hope is that common sense will prevail next year and that Santa with his white beard and red suit is again the star attraction of our Christmas parade.