There was little talk of a white Christmas -- or a white Kris Kringle -- at the corner of Martin Luther King and Crenshaw boulevards on Friday afternoon as Langston Patterson slipped on his Santa suit and took the magic seat inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
As The Times' Angel Jennings writes, "For nearly a decade, Patterson has been the main attraction at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza during Christmastime: a rare black Santa Claus in a sea of white ones."
The mall is one of the few in the country with a black Santa Claus.
We asked a number of passersby, some on camera, to describe their image of Santa. While few of them said they had heard of any controversy about Santa's racial identity, most agreed -- well, sort of -- with Megyn Kelly, host of Fox News' "The Kelly File," that Santa "is what he is."
"Santa Claus is brown-skinned to me," Chimere said unwaveringly.
Carmel, a parent with her young son nearby, described Santa as "an older black guy ... who's kind of short."
As one young man who called himself Ricky explained, "Everyone around here sees Santa as they see themselves -- and they aren't white."
"I don't really think there should be a white Santa Claus," said one mother whose son shuns white mall Santas. "You've got to do what your kids believe in because if you don't, it's like, you're lying to them."
A bus driver stopped long enough to tell us he thought Santa was neither black nor white. "He's both; he's mixed," he said with a hearty chuckle.
Not everyone's view of St. Nick was initially about the skin he was in. One child we spoke with, Dayanara, mostly described his outfit and his ride -- the reindeer-pulled sleigh, of course. What was more telling was how joy, wonder and innocence colored her understanding of Santa, even as she said his skin was "like peach."
Amber, who was walking with her two children, said she believed that Santa looked like "you" -- "whatever color you were."
We invite you to describe what your Santa Claus looks like and respectfully weigh in on whether there's room for the jolly ol' elf to morph according to one's own vision of him.
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