INDIANAPOLIS — Josiah McCruiston believes there are multiple ways Santa Claus can show wonder and magic and still be relevant to all people. The most crucial way is to have several different kinds of Santas for kids to visit.
When children are not racially or culturally represented in the novelties our society loves, it can make them feel as though they don't matter, in effect creating a sense of invisibility.
"The quickest way to make someone feel disrespected is to teach them that they're invisible," McCruiston, also known as Santa Josiah, told WRTV.
While growing up, McCruiston went to see Santa a lot.
"My mother loves Santa. And it was just a thing she always wanted me to do," McCruiston remembered.
But he never saw a Black Santa, or Santa of color, as a child. He had only ever seen white Santas.
"Seldom did I ever see a Santa that looked like me. I only saw it as novelty items," McCruiston said. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, a cool Santa with a saxophone!'"
McCruiston didn't set out to be a Santa; it just sort of happened in 2016.
As a musician, he performed in a concert called the Jazz and Jive Toy Drive in Bloomington to help raise money for Christmas gifts for children in foster care.
After the show, McCruiston was asked to be the Santa to deliver the gifts to the homes, and he agreed. The rest is history.
"The year after, I got requests to be Santa. And I thought, 'OK, so this is a thing,'" he said. "And I just haven't stopped."
McCruiston says every year has been enjoyable, including this 2021 holiday season — despite a Santa shortage.
"Right now, we're seeing a lot of people get requests and double bookings and, yeah, it's a lot," McCruiston said.
According to CNN, there is a huge demand for Santa Claus appearances this year, and enrollment into Santa schools is down.
McCruiston says he thinks it has a lot to do with the way of the world right now, especially as it relates to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with news of the Omicron variant consistently popping up in several states.
"I mean, not a lot of people feel safe coming out, and some Santas are a bit older who have conditions already. So it's better to be safe than sorry. And, you know, I'm a bit younger. So I feel comfortable," McCruiston said.
Last December, WRTV told readers where they could find a Black Santa in Indianapolis and, in an interview with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, helped explain why the need for a variety of Santas was crucial for children. The article created significant communal discourse on WRTV's social channels.
One of the opinions we saw repeatedly was the blanketed statement that Santa could only be white.
McCruiston says that the magic of St. Nick is that he can be all things and represent several communities, which is where the magic truly happens.
In asking what his response is to folks who believe Santa is only of the white race, McCruiston says he can only offer a simple "Merry Christmas."
"For those people, I say, Merry Christmas. And Merry, Merry Christmas," McCruiston said. "Honestly, it's an opinion, and you can keep it. I just know that I just made somebody smile, like right before I saw you. So that's what really matters. Not your jaded opinion."
"The fact that I can still bring a smile; still make someone laugh; still get those crying babies — because crying babies will come — and you know, you just take care of it the best way you know how, and you just keep it moving," McCruiston said, smiling.
McCruiston will keep being a Santa Claus for as long as he continues to see the world "on the arc of progression." He believes Santa is not just one race or gender identity.
"There will always (be) room for Santas like me. But also, let's talk about the other Santas that are not seen enough, like Hispanic Santas and my friends from Asia, Asian American Santas, not just one thing," McCruiston said. "Gender-fluid Santas — give me all of the Santas, you know. Even Madam Santas, that would be great!"
- Dec. 9, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 13, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 14, 6 – 8 p.m. (Snowflake Pajama Party event with Mrs. Claus)
- Dec. 16, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 18, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Santa’s Holiday Breakfast event with Mrs. Claus)
- Dec. 21, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 23, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
You can visit a Black Santa at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis on the following dates, as well:
- Dec. 7, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 10, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Dec. 11, 1:30 – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 12, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
- Dec. 14, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 16, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Dec. 18, 1:30 – 5 p.m.
- Dec. 19, 10 a.m.– 5 p.m.
- Dec. 20, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Hoosiers who would like a virtual option to visit with Santa can join "Find Black Santa" for an online event on Christmas Eve.
In the meantime, here's a holiday greeting from Santa Josiah for your little ones:
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.