INDIANAPOLIS, IN The once beloved jolly, chubby old man with a white beard may become a memory of the past with Simon Property Group’s new plan to phase out traditional Santas and replace them with what they claim will be more receptive to other cultures. The new “Santas”can be a man or a woman of any race, and are still dressed in red and white robes. The design of the robes will be a little different, however. The right side of the chest will be decorated with a Star of David, and the left side will be have crescent moon, a symbol often used in conjunction with the Islamic holiday Eid. Next to Santa, there is also slated to be either a kinara referring to Kwanzaa, or a menorah from Hanukkah on a table.
Simon Property Group’s director of mall marketing, Lauren Dalis, released a statement on Sunday morning: “Here at Simon, we know that holiday cheer is incredibly valuable to children. For that reason, our new multicultural Santas will be expected to be seen in all 325 of our mall locations across the United States by 2016. We look forward to giving children of every culture the same equal treatment.”
Simon owns the most malls in the United States, with locations in every state. This change is likely due to their large market share, and trying to tap into the growing market of minorities that celebrate gift-giving holidays, including Muslims who currently do not yet have a massive consumerist holiday. Although the plan is already in the later stages of development, when CBS News interviewed Simon Mall shoppers, they found some controversy.
“Yeah, I think I understand what Simon is trying to do here,” Liz Krupa, a Christmas shopper at a Salem, New Hampshire location said. “There are a lot of problems with the execution and it’s a total atrocity. For example, that robe is absolutely hideous, and who’s idea was it to stitch the Star of David over his heart? That’s kinda messed up.”
“This is horrible. This is exactly what us Christians mean by the War on Christmas,” Lionel Parks, another Christmas shopper at the Oak Court Mall in Memphis, Arkansas said. “They’re trying to appeal to everyone, and managing to miss every target. This is a Christian country, and Santa is an important part of Christmas. Now liberals are trying to take that away from us too. Never in my 68 years did I ever think I could be so oppressed.”
Simon Malls will begin taking applications for aspiring Santas at all of their locations beginning in the fall of next year. In their application process, they will require all Santas to pass a drug test, have a clear criminal record, and have past experience working with children. There will be a short week of training for the new Santa candidates, where they will ensure that all Santas show happiness and optimism when working with the children. Candidates that can speak more than one language are being preferred over all other applicants, but Simon Property Group stresses that all applications will be considered.
“We will not discriminate on any adult applicants based on their ability to grow facial hair, or their body type. Here at Simon, we are proud to declare that we take priority of how the children will perceive Santa as a person, regardless of hair color or age,” A written statement handed out at a press conference explained.
The tradition of Santa Claus goes back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was born and lived in Turkey, where he became well known for both his piety and giving nature. St. Nick changed into Sinter Klaas when his legends reached the Netherlands. In the 1770s, Sinter Klaas became known as Santa Claus in America. In the early 19th century, Christmas and thereby Santa Claus experienced a revival when businesses began marketing Christmas gifts to adults and children. In the late 1880s, businesses began to entice children into their doors by advertising that they could have a glimpse at the “real” Santa. Usually these Santas were homeless old men dressed in red robes. The same tactics are still being employed to this day.