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Santa and the Finns

[ 112 ] December 13, 2013 |

Since the world is now obsessing over Santa’s whiteness, or really more specifically just how racist is Megyn Kelly, it’s worth noting that even if Santa is Scandinavian we can legimiately question his whiteness. After all, if it wasn’t for a totally bogus 1908 court decision, we wouldn’t consider the Finns white and thus whiteness would still be pure.


Comments (112)

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  1. Lee Rudolph says:

    How in the world did someone, sometime, manage to hack into the source of your linked September 2011 post, so as to make it conclude with the ad “Welcome to our online sheepskin bomber jacket store. We have a warmest winter jacket, girls trench coat, mountain bike apparel and leather moto jacket”?

  2. Megyn is on FOX.

    So what else was she supposed to say, except that Santa’s an old white guy, and Jesus was a young white guy?

    FOX, whose audience is already in the process of dying off, would have something like a ratings Cretaceous “mass extinction” if she said otherwise.

    • NonyNony says:

      Why does she have to say anything at all?

      This is exactly why I think Megyn Kelly is actually fairly stupid. This is the kind of thing where picking the fight is just a bone stupid thing to do, so why not leave it alone?

      Seriously – a columnist in Slate writes an article about how she and a lot of other non-white folks don’t see themselves reflected in the traditional depictions of Santa Claus, and Megyn Kelly immediately jumps on that to basically say “No – Santa is always White – shut the fuck up you stupid woman. How dare you even suggest that I even think about how this impacts other people who are not me.” That’s just stupid. A smart person would have said something more like “while I see your point, there is something to be said for tradition …”. And an ever smarter person would have seen that this is a stupid argument to even wade into and would have left it alone and talked about something else. Anything else.

      • Grumpy says:

        Fox News personality does something that gets publicity and you assume she’s stupid?

      • Malaclypse says:

        This is the kind of thing where picking the fight is just a bone stupid thing to do, so why not leave it alone?

        You think Fox is not actively trying to get liberals upset?

        1) Fox anchor says awful thing.
        2) Liberals react, call awful thing awful.
        3) Click-bait.
        4) Profit.
        5) Fox anchor declares him/herself victim of Political Correctness.
        6) Bitter old white people agree – The Man is always coming down on the poor oppressed whites
        7) More profit!

        Megyn plays someone stupid. She does it very effectively. She’s not actually stupid.

        • NonyNony says:

          I guess? It still seems like an awfully trivially stupid thing to do – picking out a column that her viewers will not have read from a website that they would never go to to call it out because the writer suggests that the made-up figure of Santa Claus might not be as inclusive as white people think he is? It’s the kind of thing I could see Rush Limbaugh using to fill a few minutes of outrage on his show, but even there I can’t see it being something worth doing for long. The outrage level isn’t really high on it.

          I guess it might make more sense if she thinks that BillO is retiring and she wants to get into some of that sweet, sweet “War on Christmas” grift. Since nothing says “War on Christmas” like the mild suggestion that Santa Claus might not always have to be depicted as a white guy, I guess.

          • Gus says:

            You have to look at it from the perspective of a Fox viewer. They love being outraged about this kind of stuff. It’s a lamestream media outlet (though one the average Fox viewer probably hasn’t heard of), it involves race and fits into the war on Christmas narrative they’re pushing. It’s a trifecta! What’s not to love for Kelly and Fox producers?

            • Aimai says:

              Gus is right. In fact someone linked to the actual interview with her that just came out. She sees her job as emoting for her viewers–of picking stuff out of the stream of media blather and talking to them about it. And I think that its obviously in keeping with Fox’s viewer’s preferences, so ably discussed by Fred Clark at Slactivist, to prefer to hear about the culture wars and to prefer to imagine that they are eternally being victimized and their culture “stolen” from them. The sheer pointless stupidity of the picked up point, that black people would also enjoy feeling like full participants in US cultural life, is the entire point of the excercise. These people, her viewers, like being permanently offended and they thrill to be permanently defended by the likes of Megyn.

          • Hogan says:

            I guess it might make more sense if she thinks that BillO is retiring and she wants to get into some of that sweet, sweet “War on Christmas” grift.

            There’s plenty of that grift to go around.

        • Cervantino says:

          not actually stupid


          “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that.”

          …definitely evil.

          • Hogan says:

            Yes, that’s an important message for all the kids who don’t leave the room when they realize Fox News is on. Who are just as historical and verifiable as Santa.

          • herr doktor bimler says:

            The argument that “Jesus is just as real as Santa (so both are Nordic)” seems, I dunno, noncupatory. All around the world, atheists’ prayers have been answered — God has indeed made their enemies ridiculous — and they don’t know whom to thank.

        • Matt says:

          She’s not actually stupid.

          Graduating from Albany Law (or Yale!) and then working at a big law firm for some time, and co-writing an ABA Journal article, are 100% not disqualifying from being certain sorts of stupid. Obviously, she’s not stupid in some senses, but those things are completely compatible with being deeply ignorant about the world and not caring about this at all, as well as being very able to just say “nah, nah, nah! I can’t hear you!” to every bit of contrary evidence to one’s world view. That’s a certain sort of stupid, and I see no evidence that she doesn’t fit that.

          • UserGoogol says:

            Ignoring evidence contrary to one’s existing world view is an extremely common condition among human beings. Conservatives and political pundits might be particularly prone to a certain variant of that condition, but they’re in no way unique in this way.

            • herr doktor bimler says:

              Ignoring evidence contrary to one’s existing world view is an extremely common condition among human beings

              Particularly when it is a prerequisite for one’s remunerative employment.

      • MAJeff says:

        Seriously – a columnist in Slate writes an article about how she and a lot of other non-white folks don’t see themselves reflected in the traditional depictions of Santa Claus, and Megyn Kelly immediately jumps on that to basically say “No – Santa is always White – shut the fuck up you stupid woman. How dare you even suggest that I even think about how this impacts other people who are not me.” That’s just stupid.

        That’s Fox. Her job is to get terrified derpy old white people worked up, and that’s what she’s doing.

      • Cheap Wino says:

        I doubt this reflects on her intelligence one way or the other. In production meetings they decided to do this segment. We don’t know whether it was her idea, whether she agreed or disagreed with doing it, anything. They did go over some ground rules about how it was supposed to go which included don’t say Santa isn’t real when you talk about his whiteness. Plus, live TV is harder than it looks. This was just business as usual at Faux.

        My favorite Megyn Kelly nonsense was after the pepper spraying of students at UC Davis she called pepper spray, “. . . a food product, essentially.” Now that’s some world class white washing.

      • KmCO says:

        The most damning thing about Kelly’s choice little history lesson is that she was ostensibly directing it to kids. If I were twelve years old, I might reasonably ask what the hell difference it makes what racial category Jesus and the fictional character Santa Claus are thrown into.

        • anthrofred says:

          The most damning thing about Kelly’s choice little history lesson is that she was ostensibly directing it to kids.

          Emphasis added. I highly doubt it was more than a rhetorical move.

      • Informant says:

        a columnist in Slate writes an article about how she and a lot of other non-white folks don’t see themselves reflected in the traditional depictions of Santa Claus

        I’ll stipulate that Megyn Kelly’s an idiot, but I’d say that defending Santa Claus’ “whiteness” is no more idiotic than lamenting that you don’t see yourself “reflected in the traditional depictions of Santa Claus” — Santa Claus isn’t real, he isn’t a role model, nor does he represent any sort of real life accomplishment that someone could aspire to. It’s like complaining that Superman is depicted as white. (Complaints about depicting Jesus as white, on the other hand, are completely legit because, assuming Jesus existed as an actual historical personage, he most certainly would have had dark brown-to-black hair, brown eyes, and a dusky complexion.)

        • Origami Isopod says:

          no more idiotic than lamenting that you don’t see yourself “reflected in the traditional depictions of Santa Claus”

          Right, because representation in fiction doesn’t matter, either.

        • Tom Servo says:

          I think you logic collapses in on itself there. I see a difference between defending Santa’s whiteness and complaining that he’s white.

          To be more specific, I think it’s perfectly valid and understandable for a minority (like the woman Megyn Kelly was responding to) to feel left out by Santa being white, and to be a little irritated that she has to explain this to her kids, and all the racial insecurity that comes with it. I don’t think it means we have to change how Santa is depicted, but I can understand

          Whereas, Megyn Kelly’s vociferous defense of Santa’s whiteness is absolutely laughable. I mean, let it go.

          I mean really, one lady is saying “Hey, I feel a little left out,” and while I don’t agree that Santa should be a penguin instead of a white man, I can empathize with her perspective. Whereas Megyn Kelly’s argument boils down to “NO NO NO HE MUST BE WHITE.” I think the person vehemently trying to enforce the race of a fictional character is the pathetic one.

  3. Ronan says:

    Are we completely ruling out the possibility that kelly just doesnt see race?
    That she only sees people?

    • N__B says:

      Here’s my non-snarky answer: on american TV, if you say someone is “white,” you are talking about race. You may think that you are merely describing (inaccurately) skin color, but that is wrong. American society is so steeped in racial issues that it is not possible to describe someone in public using skin color as a distinguishing characteristic without talking about race.

      In other words, Kelly is a racist or a moron. She may be both, but I lean most heavily towards “racist” as her distinguishing feature. Note that I did not need to describe her skin color to review her opinions. She could have done the same and chose not to.

      • Ronan says:

        I was just being a smartass
        Ive unfortuantely seen Kellys work
        Dear God
        Strange thing is, iirc initially she started out sane *enough* (in comparison to otheres at the network)
        now she appears to have lost it ompltely, to all intents and purposes

  4. N__B says:

    Are we completely ruling out the possibility that the Finns are aliens?

  5. ajay says:

    I thought the Americans believed Santa lived in Greenland, not Scandinavia, in which case he is presumably an Inuit.

    • NonyNony says:

      I thought the Americans believed Santa lived in Greenland


      Americans “believe”[*] that Santa lives at the “North Pole”. Not the actual geographic north pole (which is in the middle of an area of melting ice) or the magnetic north pole (which is, wikipedia tells me, on an island in northern Canada at the moment), but at the mythic “North Pole” which is a snowy mass of land “up north” covered in fir trees whose major distinguishing landmarks are 1) a giant candy-cane colored pole sticking out of the ground with a sign hanging on it that reads “North Pole” and 2) Santa’s Workshop – an industrial hellhole where non-unionized elves are worked to death 364 days out of the year producing wooden toys for ungrateful kids who only want Xboxes and iPhones these days a delightful old-world style workshop where magical elves produce toys and Christmas candy for all of the good children of America.

      [*] And by “believe” I mean “have been told in numerous Christmas specials and ad campaigns over the years”.

  6. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Cultural conservatives love retconning history to reflect their pet social hierarchies.

  7. LeeEsq says:

    Santa and the Finns, it isn’t quite a good name for a band but it might make a decent title for a bad direct to DVD movie.

  8. FlipYrWhig says:

    I thought I had heard Santa Claus originated in Lapland, which would make him… Sami?

    • N__B says:


      A comforting, friendly place that is much beloved by small children and cats.

    • Matthew Stevens says:

      Interrogate Renee Zellweger until she tells us the truth!

    • Lurker says:

      In the Finnish children’s literature, the personality of Joulupukki is not usually discussed. It is usually inferred that he is a sort of elf himself, too. A bit bigger, and definitely older than the rest of the elves.

      On the other hand, the “elf”, in Finnish tonttu is actually not a good translation. The tonttu is about the same as haltia, a guardian spirit. The prominent Finnish children’s author Mauri Kunnas actually makes the relation very clear in his popular children’s book Joulupukki, continuously in print since the early 1980’s, where he claims that Father Christmas’s elves are actually immortal guardian beings of abandoned farms and outbuildings or felled forests who have fled the spreading urban development to Lapland. The same idea has been used by several other authors since then.

      The Finnish elf (tonttu or haltia) was considered, in traditional folklore, to live under the floor, or perhaps in the sauna or in some other outbuilding. The elf was afoot during the night, often helping the people living in the house, if the people lived morally and worked hard. However, slights and insults or lazyness might cause the elf to get angry, starting him to stir trouble. The elf was kept happy by sacrificing small amounts of bread or milk at locations where the elf was supposed to move. Physically, the elf was considered to be a small man (sometimes a woman), wearing old-fashioned clothes and sporting a long beard.

      • You could be completely making all of this up and I would not know the difference.

        And I mean that as a complement.

        • J. Otto Pohl says:

          We have dwarfs instead of elves in Ghana.

          Mmoetia is a system of dwarfs who have traveled and settled throughout Ghana. They live in the forest and are quite proficient in the use of herbs. They specialize in working with nature spirits for healing body, mind and spirit and to address personal, family, social, financial and environmental issues. They can be playful, mischievous generally, or very cruel to evil doers and those who try to ignore them. They are considered the spiritual gatekeepers.

      • Mr Rogers says:

        we have a copy of Kunnas’ _Santa Claus and his Elves_ which has been lovingly handed from mother to daughter since 1982. I particularly like the implication of mid air airplane to sleigh present restocking in the book.

      • Helmut Monotreme says:

        In Norway they tell stories about the Nissen which sound very similar to the tonntu , at Christmastime, there are Julenissen.

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        This here documentary supports everything Lurker has stated.

      • actor212 says:

        And my mom used to yell at me for dropping crumbs. I wish I had known this bit of my heritage at age 9. I could have shut her up.

      • actor212 says:

        Joulupukki literally translates to “yule goat,” and indeed, his origin stems from pagan times, when he assisted Odin in the hunt (interestingly, he wore red leather pants and a red fur trimmed jacket, far ahead of St Nicholas of the 20th Century).

        The story is told that on the winter solstice, Joulupukki would roam the land, looking for leftover food from the winter feasts.

        Or so I was told. My parents might have made the whole thing up as a way to get all chauvinistic about Christmas.

    • DrS says:

      Ed: That’s no way for a man to die.

      Frank: Ah, you’re right, Ed. A parachute not opening… that’s a way to die. Getting caught in the gears of a combine… having your nuts bit off by a Laplander, that’s the way I wanna go!

    • actor212 says:


      Traditionally, Joulupukki lives in Rovaniemi, which is in Sami, Finland. However, the original legend of Joulupukki (as Santa, not as goat man) has him living in Korvanunturi, which straddles the border between Russia and Finland. Finland recognizes the Sami (in a similar fashion to how Canada recognizes the First Nation) but Russia does not recognize the Sami under the ILO Indigenous People’s convention, so….

  9. Jim says:

    Technically, that was a Minnesota district court decision, and so of little precedential value. We’re still waiting for SCOTUS to rule on whether Finns are white.

  10. Lurker says:

    The tradition of Santa Claus living in Lapland is actually pretty young. It was started by a Finnish radio show host Markus Rautio in 1927. In fact, the location, Korvatunturi, claimed as the home of Santa is essentially “North Pole”. Korvatunturi is a fell located in Eastern Lapland, without any inhabitation, and without road access. Since 1940, the fell has also been exactly on the Finnish-Russian border, and as it is in the border zone, visits to the area require a border zone permit which is only issued if you have an actual reason to go there. Nonetheless, it looks a lot like the animation version of the North Pole, but without the Earth’s axis protruding from the ground.

    The Finnish Post gives the address of Santa Claus as “Santa Claus, 99999 Korvatunturi, Finland”. The actual location of the post office 99999 is in Rovaniemi.

  11. Barry Freed says:

    Revisiting the Finns and whiteness question: a large group of Finnish students came to my place of work for a tour a couple of months ago. After they’d left a colleague not knowing who they were came up to me and asked who all those blonde people were. I’ve never seen such a whiter, blonder group of people in one place like that.

  12. Svensker says:

    Except the Finns are not Scandinavians. Probably. Some of them speak Scandinavian, but mostly they speak that outlandish lingo a theirs. Nice glass design, though, eh?

    • Lurker says:

      It depends on the definition. Personally, I consider Scandinavia to be the peninsula where Sweden and Norway are located. This means that Iceland and Denmark are also outside Scandinavia.

      The political definition would be to equate Scandinavia with the Nordic Council, which includes Denmark, Finland, Færøyarna, Greenland, Iceland and Sweden. This is most valid in cultural, religious and legal sense, as there is a lot of cooperation involving all Nordic countries.

      The linguistic definition equates North Germanic languages with Scandinavia, defining only Swedish-speaking Finns as Scandinavians. This definition was popular in the 19th century, but has unfortunate implications, as its supporters usually classified Finns as subhumans.

      I usually prefer words “Nordic” and “Nordic countries”, as these are better-defined concepts.

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        How about the Estonians? I know they’re conventionally lumped in as a ‘Baltic State’, but that doesn’t strike me as a natural grouping… culturally and economically, Estonia seemed more closely linked to Finland.

        • Lurker says:

          Estonia is often considered an “honorary” Nordic country. It is really not a Nordic country, as it is not part of the Nordic council, and it is not part of different forms of Nordic legal cooperation. (Nordic countries give the citizens of other Nordic countries an even more privileged treatment than for other EU citizens, including, for example, the absolute right of residence, a fast-track citizenship route, and several other benefits.)

          However, Estonia is politically closely aligned with Sweden and Finland, while Lithuania and Latvia are more directed toward Germany and Poland. Most likely, Estonia will, at some point, become a member of the Nordic Council.

    • actor212 says:

      The proper way to refer to the Scandahoovian people is “Scandinavia and Finland,” so while ethnically we are not Scandis, we are considered part of the culture.

  13. Oscar Goldman says:

    Did anyone read Harris’s response to Kelly’s argument that Santa Claus must be white? It’s priceless. In a nutshell: “Santa Claus isn’t real. Thanks for coming out, Megyn.”

  14. Royko says:

    I thought St. Nick was Turkish (Or Greek?)

    Do Finns count as swarthy (as Swedes do?) under Ben Franklin’s formulation?

    An in-law launched into a “What’s the deal with Kwanzaa?” tirade the other day (really? You’re still going on about Kwanzaa in 2013?) But it strikes me as funny that the same people who get all upset about some blacks wanting a holiday of their own are the same people that go all freak out the moment anyone challenges the whiteness of their Christmas.

    “Our holiday is WHITE, dammit, so all you non-whites BETTER celebrate it!” WTF?

    • Jay C says:

      The original St. Nicholas (270-343) was a Lycian Greek – the area is now in Turkey (and has been Turkish for centuries), but the population in that era would have mostly of Greek descent. Especially the upper crust, as Nicholas’ parents were said to be.

      The “whiteness” issue with Finns stems (as so many idiotic “racial” issues do) from misapplied 19th-Century ethnology, in which the native Finns were somehow classified as “Asiatic” or “Mongolian”, and hence, non-white. However, as the Minnesota judge in 1908 opined, Finland had been conquered, occupied, re-conquered and re-occupied by so many peoples for so long, that any “Mongolian” blood was fairly irrelevant by then.

      • Lurker says:

        The racial issue was indeed quite irrational, but not unscientific. It was based mainly on the misconception that linguistic and genetic kinship coincide. Most Uralic peoples are, indeed, more or less Mongolian-looking. Thus, Finns should also be Mongols. This view was very keenly espoused by the Swedish-speaking party in Finland. For them, the argument that Finnish-speakers were Mongols and thus inferior, was an argument by which they could justify the continued domination of Swedish language and Swedish-speaking elite in Finland.

        The Minnesota judge dismissed this contemporary scientific position because he thought that Finns look white. He was correct in his position but wrong in his justification. Finland has been conquered relatively few times and according to modern genetic studies, the population is homogeneous and relatively far away from its neighbouring peoples. Classifying us as Asians or Europeans is, genetically, a matter of taste, really. In cultural, religious and political sense, we are a part of the West.

  15. fidelio says:

    Over at Scandinavia and the World*, Humon has had several takes on the Santa issue: Here, here, and here.

    *Frequently NSFW, in a cartoonish, sometimes even chibified sort of of way, and with a hilarious angle on how some of the rest of the world sees the US.

  16. actor212 says:

    Hey, man, I’m a Finn and I’m black and I have the genetic profile to prove it!

  17. DrS says:

    Santa looks like Mr. T. Just ask Nancy Reagan.

  18. Don says:

    I keep hearing this weird idea that someone is not “white” because they’re (insert ethnic group). I’m not an anthropologist, but seems to me that white is just a complexion.

    Like, I’m a Cuban Jew. I’m also white. I’m as pale as my Scots-Irish friends. I may not be “white” according to some assorted racists, but if you didn’t know that I was a Cuban Jew, you’d just see me as a white dude. That is, until you saw my name.

    On the flipside someone actually told me once “You’re not hispanic! You’re white!” Can we just abolish racial and ethnic categories? Because people are incapable of grasping the simplest of things, like the fact that there are white hispanics.

    • Tristan says:

      seems to me that white is just a complexion

      Sometimes not even complexion makes you white.

      Yes, there was a brief time in the USA when being German wasn’t enough to be white, you had to be a specific German.

      • Tristan says:

        Oh, some of you WILL NOT WANT THIS NEXT LINK IN YOUR HISTORY, because it’s from stormfront (I REPEAT IT IS FROM A LITERAL HATE SITE ) but I stumbled on it looking for that other one and it’s one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever witnessed between racists (not that I witness a lot of those, but you know what I mean), so for your perusal (THIRD TIME: DO NOT FOLLOW THIS LINK IF ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT I’LL JUST C/P THE URL SO NO ONE SOMEHOW CLICKS THROUGH, I DON’T WANT TO COST ANYONE A JOB):

        “So according to people who frequent other political boards (I won’t name names) Irish people aren’t white.

        As someone who has lots of Irish blood and genes in them, this upsets and angers me considerably”

      • Don says:

        Honestly, I only get touchy when people presume to tell me what I am or am not. I couldn’t give a fuck less if another pale Cuban Jew identifies as white or not; but I get violently angry when someone tells me I can’t identify as white. It’s rare, and it’s mostly older people in my extended family, but it happens.

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        you had to be a specific German.
        Fair enough. Have you listened to Swabians?

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