In L.A. Santa Claus Comes in Many Colors - New York News

In L.A. Santa Claus Comes in Many Colors

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Recently, a Fox News Channel anchor started a firestorm of controversy by declaring emphatically that Santa Claus is white--period. And while it's true that Santa is a European historical figure, many believe that Old St. Nick is much bigger concept than his historical origins. A concept that knows no ethnic or color boundaries.

But that's not news to the folks at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall in South Los Angeles. The mall is been one of the few in the country and perhaps the only one in Southern California to feature African American and Latino santas. Langston Patterson and Mario Vasquez have been greeting thousands of parents and their children at the mall for more than a decade.

How rare are Patterson and Vasquez? Consider this: one school that specializes in training Santa Claus students recently graduated a class of 2,200. Of those, only three were black. And that is why Baldwin Hills Crenshaw is so far ahead of the curve. Mall management says it was just the right thing to do in a community that is predominantly black and Latino. But it also makes great business sense. The multicultural Santa program has been a huge success. People come from as far away as the Antelope Valley, Inland Empire, even San Diego just to see Patterson and Vasquez. But snapping pictures with the two and telling them what they want for Christmas are not the only things these customers do. They also shop and spend lots of money there.

All that being said, Patterson says, the bottom line is, no matter what color Santa comes in, he always has the same message for the kids he sees. Be on your best behavior all year long if you want a visit from Santa come Christmas. But Patterson believes that message is often much more effective when the Santa delivering it looks like the kids he's talking to and, in the case of Vasquez, speaks Spanish, a language with which many of the children and their parents are familiar.

Tony McEwing co-anchors FOX 11 Morning News at 4:30 am and provides news updates for the Emmy award winning Good Day LA, broadcast weekdays from 7:00 - 10:00 am. He also co-anchors the FOX 11 10 am News and the FOX 11 News at Noon.
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