It’s Christmas time, which means kisses under the mistletoe, gifts under the tree and Santa Claus coming to town. The tradition of Santa Claus has been entwined within our American culture, even though it has European roots. But the public image of Santa Claus has largely remained the same: white and rarely deviates from its original perception. 

Dion Sinclair, The Real Black Santa, at an event in Atlanta last week. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

Many men, one mission

Many men have taken it upon themselves to change how the world views Santa Claus. Dion Sinclair, more commonly known as “Santa Dee” or “The Real Black Santa” is doing his part. Men like Santa Andre and Santa Adrian, otherwise known as The Caramel Santa.

There’s even a Santa school for others that want to learn to play the part of Santa or Mrs. Claus. The Northern Lights Santa Academy on Powers Ferry Road teaches students proper Santa Claus beard and hair care and how to handle special needs kids. The fall class of 2022 had over 120 graduates. 

Becoming Santa Claus

Just over 20 years ago Sinclair found himself in an insurance-salesman class. He was there to get his license renewed. Every time the class would take a break, the instructor’s phone would ring with a rendition of the holiday classic, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Sinclair asked the man about what he did and was surprised to hear that he had a side gig as Santa Claus. Sinclair asked whether being Santa Claus was a lucrative business? The response was an outstanding one- the teacher had made about $28,000 for his work. Sinclair couldn’t believe someone could make $28,000 for six weeks of work as Santa Claus. When receiving that knowledge, he knew what he wanted to do. 

Sinclair soon went to work as Santa Claus, working for Eastern Onion, a division of Mystical Parties LLC, an Atlanta-based singing telegram and party sign company. Sinclair was still actively finding a couple of gigs for himself, one of which was at Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta Airport where 700 kids were bused in to come and meet Santa Claus.  

“There were seven different schools brought in from around the community,” Sinclair said. “I was elated, we did the show and afterwards I called my buddies and no one was able to listen to me because it was the middle of the day.” All of the people he called were at work and didn’t have time to take the call, recalled Sinclair.

Breaking into the Santa Claus business is difficult enough. One has to meet the expectations of children while simultaneously delivering on the ethereal nature of the Santa Claus character. This all before you enter into the factor of skin color.

“Years ago I was doing a fall festival for my niece and nephew’s school,” Sinclair remembers. “This mom walked by with her son and asked if he wanted to take a picture. The kid looked over at me and said, ‘no, Santa Claus ain’t Black’,” Sinclair confessed.

That prompted Sinclair to find out more about Santa, making sure he was doing it correctly, and that more importantly, he was giving back to the community effectively.

“Santa Claus loves, he isn’t about being a man of color,” Sinclair says. “Santa Claus is a man of God. I work hard at doing that and having that seen when I am Santa Claus.”

Representation Matters

But representation matters and even though that one child didn’t see it, there are plenty more that will. “A lot of kids do appreciate seeing me in the costume,” Sinclair said.

For those looking to get into the Santa Claus game, Sinclair has a bit of advice for you. “Put some thought and method into what you do. Look good at what you do, don’t just buy boot covers to put over your shoes, be the best Santa you can be”.

To book The Real Black Santa or find out where he will be, follow the link provided.