Sartorial advice for L.A.'s Santas: Keep the hat, ditch the shades

It's not easy being a child who believes when there's seemingly a Santa Claus on every corner

Today’s installment of “op-eds from Christmas past” is actually an editorial from 2011. In "Yes, Chloe, there are Santa Clauses," the Times editorial board gives L.A.'s Santas some advice for keeping the magic alive for kids. 

A couple took their 6-year-old daughter to see Santa Claus for the first time this holiday season. Chloe fearlessly climbed onto Santa's lap at the Brentwood Country Mart to tell him about the Crayola glow kit she wanted. That went well, her parents thought. Heading home, however, they had driven two blocks when they spotted another Santa walking down the sidewalk.

Chloe stared at him. "How could there be two Santas?" she asked. Aside from the suit and the beard, they hardly looked alike. The second one was thinner. And wearing sunglasses.

"There aren't! It's the same Santa," her father said. The rest of the afternoon, father and daughter argued the metaphysics of Santa. He insisted on the one universal Santa — one who moves quickly, the father explained. She kept insisting she saw two different Santas. Finally, she dropped the topic. But as far as her father could tell, Chloe never quite bought that she was seeing the same Santa twice.

In Southern California, with its vast grid of shopping centers and its diverse population, the holiday season brings forth a profusion of varied Santas traversing the city by car and on foot from malls to parties to churches to bars. (For SantaCon 2011, several hundred people suited up as St. Nick for a Hollywood bar crawl.)

The Culver City Police Officers' Assn. arranges an elaborate Santa Sleigh tour that travels across the city in December and relies on an ethnic medley of volunteer Santas to man the sleigh on different nights. During the four-hour stop when Culver City Police Sgt. Aubrey Kellum played Santa, not one child, regardless of ethnic background, questioned him about the fact that he is black. They just launched into their Christmas lists. "A few gave me inquisitive looks but totally went with it," he said.

And why not? If there's even a sliver of a chance that the jolly fellow earnestly listening to children's requests might follow through and deliver, why would they risk queering the deal with pesky questions? Better to get right down to business.

Still, we have some advice for Santas everywhere in a season when magic is fleeting and easily dispelled: A uniform policy toward accessorizing the red suit would be helpful — black boots, belt, Santa hat. Lose the sunglasses. (Grandfatherly reading glasses are acceptable.) And we call on Santas working stores to change into their street clothes before leaving the mall so as not to confuse children.

So, yes, Chloe, there are multiple Santa Clauses. But as the Culver City police sergeant said to an adult who joked with him about being a black Santa: "It's all the same inside."

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