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American Sprinter Carmelita Jeter poses with Mr. and Mrs. Black Santa at an annual Compton, Calif., Toy Giveaway in December 2017. Photo: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images

Black Santa, Native American Nativity scenes, and diverse-cast Christmas movies are becoming regular sights around the holidays as U.S. demographics transform.

Why it matters: Advertisers, shopping malls, and movie studios have finally embraced diverse holiday imagery during a national reckoning on race and as communities of color continue to claim Christmas as their own celebration.

  • Public events involving Black Santa have gone from a handful in 2016 to more than 200 this year, even during the pandemic, said Vivian Walker, founder of the Black Santa Directory.
  • More holiday ads in the U.S. and U.K. are featuring diverse families.
  • Artists are selling Nativity scenes with the Holy Family as Latino immigrants or as Jemez Pueblo members in front of a New Mexico adobe home.

Driving the news: A Black family in North Little Rock, Ark., received a racist letter last month in response to putting a Black Santa on their front lawn. White neighbors responded by putting Black Santa decorations on their own lawns in solidarity.

  • A United Methodist Church in Claremont, Calif., recently built a Nativity scene with a Black Lives Matter theme. Last year, the same church had a Nativity scene with Baby Jesus as a caged Latino migrant child.
  • This year's Lifetime TV movie, “A Sugar & Spice Holiday,” is one of the first major Christmas flicks with a mostly Asian ensemble. Netflix's new holiday hit "Jingle Jangle" centers around an all-Black cast in the Victorian period.

What they’re saying: "Black Santa builds self-esteem for Black children but also speaks to parents of children of different races," said Dr. Jihan Woods, a doctor in Dallas and founder of the Find Black Santa app.

  • Woods said the Black Lives Matter protests this summer made people of color more comfortable displaying diverse holiday icons that reflect their experiences.
  • "If this is us, then it has to look like us," said Alexandro Jose Gradilla, a Chicana and Chicano Studies professor at California State University, Fullerton.

Between the lines: Scholars say the depiction of Santa Claus as a white man originated because he was a European import, a blend of the Dutch Sinterklaas and British folklore character Father Christmas.

  • Images of a light-skinned Jesus were made popular by Renaissance European artists, later brought over to the Americas.

Yes, but: Santa Claus is also linked to Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Greek bishop in modern-day Turkey, who was likely a dark-skinned man.

  • The historical Jesus was a Palestinian Jewish man. Scholars say Jesus and his mother, Mary, likely had dark skin and curly, dark hair.
  • "It's interesting that, as people of color are reclaiming their figures to be reflective of themselves, these figures are returning to what they actually looked like," Laura Elena Belmonte, a Univerity of New Mexico Chicana and Chicano Studies professor who studies religion.

The bottom ilne: Walker said images like Black Santa and diverse Baby Jesus are mainly for the adults. Kids will jump into the spirit no matter how figures appear.

  • "Children see a Black Santa and they just see Santa. They will run up to him, sit on his lap, and then it's down to business."

Go deeper

Scoop: Ex-CNN executive starts media venture for communities of color

S. Mitra Kalita (L) and Sara Lomax-Reese. Photo: Courtesy of S. Mitra Kalita

Former CNN executive S. Mitra Kalita and Philadelphia radio executive Sara Lomax-Reese have launched a newsletter seeking to expand local news on Black and brown communities to national audiences.

Why it matters: Some ethnic newspapers and local news sites focusing on people of color have suffered in recent years. The URL Media newsletter wants to bring their unique content together to attract big advertisers and facilitate underreported news.

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Breaking Biden's diplomatic logjam

Expand chart
Data: Center for Presidential Transition via Congress.gov; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The logjam for reviewing and confirming President Biden's ambassadorial picks is finally starting to break.

Why it matters: Biden is far behind his predecessors in the rate at which his ambassadorial picks have been confirmed. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a series of high-profile hearings and votes this week to finally begin chipping away at the backlog.