Is There a Female Santa Claus?
Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa have a lot in common — especially their gender. But for a few exceptions (thank you for playing Noelle, Anna Kendrick), the world of beloved Christmas characters is disproportionately male. Thankfully, women are bringing a female edge to the traditional role of Santa Claus through real-life role models, storybooks, and more — and we are here for it.
One such woman is Genma Stringer Holmes, who grew up in a home where the spirit of giving was valued all year round. She quickly became inspired after seeing Santas of color in her community. By day, she is an entrepreneur, writer, and radio host, but when Christmas comes around, she combines her talents and passions to bring Ms. Santa to life.
“My role as Ms. Santa is to bring cheer and try to help uplift the spirits of the family,” Holmes tells CircleAround. Each year, dresses in a chic version of a Santa outfit — a warm red coat with fuzzy white trim, and a Santa hat or a decked-out top hat, gloves, and boots — and spends her time giving back to those in need.
It’s important for her to not only be a real-life example of how Santa Claus can be a person of color, but a woman as well. “I know the story is about being a Santa Claus,” she writes on her blog. “But the focus is on the rarity of being a person of color in a high-profile role.”
Since adopting the role of Ms. Santa in 2018, the Girl Scout alum has traveled across the U.S. and has been grateful to see just how diverse the role of Santa can be. She also knows how difficult the holidays can be for families in underserved and marginalized communities because of the expectations that come this time of year.
“Everyone wants their children to be provided for, especially at Christmas,” she tells CircleAround. “I try to bring a lot of resources with me for the unexpected stories I may hear. It is not always about toys, even though I have toys to give away.”
Ms. Santa helps ease some of these burdens so everyone can enjoy the holiday season.
“Whenever I am asked, ‘Where is Santa?’ I gently steer the conversation back to why Ms. Santa is there: to give and serve from her heart,” she explains. “I want each experience with me to be positive for that child or adult.”
Children’s book author Sue Fliess also felt that Christmas characters were largely dominated by male figures, and that needed to change.
“One of my editors mentioned that she was looking for a Santa story,” she tells CircleAround, “But Santa stories are abundant … I was struggling with how to make mine different. I thought about it for a long while, and then the first line of my book, Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins came to me: It's Christmas Eve morning and everything's set. So why hasn't Santa Claus woken up yet?"
The Girl Scout alum shifted her focus away from Santa to create a beloved story about what would happen to Christmas if Santa was feeling under the weather. “Being a feminist who always cheers on the underdog, I knew in my gut that the one who would save Christmas had to be none other than Mrs. Claus,” she explains.
“She doesn't get much attention in any Christmas story. She's always in the background baking cookies and being supportive, which is lovely, but I felt she was ready to take center stage,” Fliess adds.
Fliess makes it a point to feature strong female characters in her stories who encounter obstacles and tackle challenges through “problem-solving, thoughtfulness, inventiveness, grit, and teamwork. In this story, Mrs. Claus lacks the Christmas magic that Santa is typically gifted with. Her natural ingenuity, wit, organizational skills, and other talents are what successfully save Christmas.
“We know that Christmas is a big job, so showing that it's okay to have help when a job is big and important is critical,” Fliess tells CircleAround. “And to have a display of partnership, that it's a shared responsibility, may be nice for a change.”
As for the future of female Santas, both Holmes and Fliess know the potential is there. Fliess would love to see families switch gears and begin a letter-writing campaign to Mrs. Claus.
“We all know women often keep the households running,” she adds. “Whether they are working moms, stay-at-home moms, single moms, or some combination of the three. Mrs. Claus is likely the one who manages the elves and their workshop, sorts the mail, reads through it, pays the bills, and keeps everything organized and humming along.”
And Holmes knows that as long as there are women willing to take on the roles of men, nothing is impossible. “Women are good at connecting with other women,” she proudly states. “And young girls are watching my example.”
“Through the lens of social media, the national narrative of who is portrayed in the red suit [or green, blue, and even pink] in the media is beginning to change,” she concludes. “We are visually seeing Santas from various backgrounds in the spotlight for doing good deeds in and out of their red suits.”