For the first time in twenty-four years, the Mall of America welcomes Black Santa for this year’s Christmas.
A Black Santa Claus has made the trek from the North Pole to the biggest mall in America for the first time ever this Christmas, according to Daily Mail.
Larry Jefferson will spend four days bringing cheer to children at the Mall of America in Minnesota, becoming the first Black Santa to take part in the seasonal celebrations.
Santa Larry traveled to Minneapolis to take part in the massive event.
But despite the extra attention he receives, Larry says he is just another of Santa’s many helpers.
‘It’s no big deal, I’m still Santa, I just happen to be a Santa of Color,’ he told WCCO.
After 24 years, the Mall of America celebrated a new first Thursday: Its first black Santa, Star Tribune states.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) December 1, 2016
“This is a long time coming,” said Landon Luther, co-owner of the Santa Experience, which has run the intimate photo studio at the mall for years. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.”
The mall offers a free, wait-in-line with everyone else Santa, as well as the book-an-appointment Santa Experience, which this year added a second location at the Bloomington megamall.
Luther executed a national search last spring for a diverse St. Nicholas that kids of color would be able to relate to. Santa Sid, a 20-year veteran at MOA, finally found one while at a Santa convention in Branson, Mo., where about 1,000 impersonators convened for a “Kringle family reunion” in July.
Larry Jefferson, of Irving, Texas, was the only black Santa Claus in attendance. The jovial actor agreed to sign a four-day contract in Minnesota.
“It was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Luther said.
From Thursday to Sunday, by appointment only, Jefferson will greet kiddos at the mall while decked as Santa Larry, passing out candy canes and reminding them to behave. “Clean your rooms, eat your vegetables and do what your mommy and daddy say all year,” he chided.
As he prepared for his first appointments Thursday morning, Jefferson said that being black rarely fazes the kids he meets.
“What they see most of the time is this red suit and candy,” he said, patting his sleek velvet coat. “[Santa represents] a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys. Anybody can be Santa; it’s what’s in your heart.””
Luther met Jefferson at the Santa Convention in Branson, Missouri, over the summer, CBS Minnesota reports.
“We had close to a 1,000 Santas there, and I was the only Santa of color,” Jefferson said.
He says kids of color really get a kick out of seeing a Santa who looks like them.
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“It gives them something to identify with, but Santa is still just Santa,” Jefferson said. “Just Saturday, I was doing an event, and one child said, ‘Santa, you’re brown,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I am, but Santa comes in many different colors.’ He said, ‘Oh,’ so I gave him a candy cane, he ran off with other kids.”
“I love Christmas,” Jefferson-Gamble told The Huffington Post, explaining his decision to attend Santa school in 2014, at about the same time he retired from a career in the military, The Huffington Post states. “I enjoy making people smile and be happy. During the holidays, people go through a lot.”
He’s played different versions of Santa since he was 12 years old, when he took care of presents that year because his dad was sick. Years later, when his nephews fell ill around Christmas, he bought a Santa suit for $30 to surprise them.
From there, he started doing volunteer work as Santa, “and it just took off.”
He says most kids don’t seem to notice he’s a Black Santa ― they’re just ecstatic to meet Santa.
“Kids love Santa no matter what color you are,” he said, adding that it’s really all about the red suit and the beard. Plus, he joked, “if you’ve got candy you’re a winner.”
This might seem like a simple act but to Black children; the introduction of Black Santa adds a whole new meaning to the Christmas celebration. At least they now know there is Black Santa as well who give gifts to children and make them happy.